T Nation

TB: Operator - Program Review, Input?

Hello fellow T-Nation members.

I came across the ‘‘Tactical Barbell’’ system about 6 months ago and for the first time, managed to stick with a program and made great progress. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s a training system mostly for Athletes, Military Personnel, Law Enforcement, Fire Fighters, etc.

You basically pick 3 lifts, most people go for the Squat/Bench/Weighted Chin Ups (and throw in the Deadlift in very low volume, if need be). OHP/Front Squat/W Chin Ups is another good option. Basically you want a Push, Pull and a Lower body movement. You do a full body workout, 3 days per week. The most popular template goes like this:

Week 1 - 3x5 @ 70%
Week 2 - 3x5 @ 80%
Week 3 - 3x3 @ 90%
Week 4 - 3x5 @ 75%
Week 5 - 3x3 @ 85%
Week 6 - 3x1 @ 95%
Week 7- Rerun the first 6 weeks, try new PRs or do a +% on your 1RM and keep progressing (similar to the +TM in 5/3/1)

For years, I battled with injuries trying to get into the infamous Bench/Squat/Deadlift. My best numbers are 11x225 on the Bench, 5x365 on the Squat and 5x435 on the Deadlift. I did heavy mobility work, been to a chiro, physio, got olympic shoes, watched countless hours of videos on form, etc. I finally realized that it wasn’t a form issue, 95% of the time, my form was nearly perfect because I was so mindful of it. The problem came the other 5% of the time, where some little thing would slip and an injury would occur. I know, the answer is ‘‘have good form 100% of the time’’, but sometimes you want to get that last rep, etc. and you end up tweaking something.

I don’t compete in powerlifting and lifting is purely recreational for me and after being a stubborn idiot for years, I concluded it’s just not worth it. For the past 2-3 years, I ‘‘changed’’ (on and off) my big 3 to the Press, Neutral Chin Ups and Trap Deadlift. Things would go great, then I would think ‘‘Why not throw Squats and Deadlifts back in?’’ and the cycle would repeat itself.

I came across this article from Lee Boyce:

https://www.t-nation.com/training/the-new-big-3-for-non-powerlifters

He basically uses the Dip, Chin Ups and Trap Deadlift as his ‘‘big 3’’. It made me think I might not be so crazy after all.

I’m lucky enough to have a pretty well equipped gym at home:


Since those pics I got a climbing rope, gymnastic rings and hung the heavy bag (120lbs). I also have a BJJ dummy that’s not on the pics.

This is what I have been running for the past 6 months or so:


I managed to stay fairly disciplined and that’s the longest I’ve stuck to a program since I started lifting nearly at 16 (I’m 29 now). At the end of the second bloc my right knee started getting irritated from Squats. Last week I was testing maxes and tweaked something in my lower back during Squats warm ups (with 275 on the bar lol). I was trying out olympic shoes and turns out it really changed my form. After that, I made the resolution I mentioned above.

Those are my PRs for the Trap DL, Press and Weighted Chin Ups: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F78qd6x8PP4

I feel pretty solid on the form for the Press and Chins, on the Trap DL (and Squats) I have a tendency to have my knees cave in. From what I looked up, it’s from weak Hip Abductors (and possibly Flexors too). I looked up a few corrective exercises and plan to fix that.

I used the same Operator Template, only this time I want to program assistance work too:

The reasoning here is to get 1 explosive movement before the main lift, then do the main lift, 1 assistance for the main lift and 1 ‘‘prehab’’ movement. Each row would be supersetted (ex: Box Jumps, Pylo Push Ups, Slams, rest, repeat 1-2 times, move onto the next row, etc.).

I’m also gonna be doing 30 mins of Yoga/Mobility work per day (did tons of research on this because my mobility is shit) and 2 x 30 mins of MMA (boxing, BJJ, kick boxing) for cardio per week. I did BJJ and Muay Thai for years, but don’t have the time to commit to classes anymore with work and family, so this is a decent option to keep in shape + cardio.

The part I’m most uncertain about is the assistance work (regarding choices and volume). I considered varying some as follow:

KB swings vs GHR vs Back Ext
Dips vs Ring Push Ups vs Ring Dips
Ring Rows vs Seal Rows vs Pull Ups vs Rope Ups
AB Roller vs Band Axe Chops vs Planks

What would be appropriate volume for the assistance work, considering this is a 3x full body routine?

Thoughts on use of progressive overload (via weights or volume) on assistance work? (ex: progressing with bands on GHRs, etc)

Should I vary the assistance or stick with the few selected exercises?

Thoughts on the TB Operator progression %? Would something like a 3x5 @ 70%, 4x4 @ 80%, 5x3 @ 90%, then upping the % by X be more viable? (The 3x5 @ 80% week is hell in TB Operator).

Any input on the whole plan would be massively appreciated.

I love me some TB

I’ve got an Operator log in here somewhere. Base Building as well. Feel free to have a read matey

Will do! Thanks. I got the TB 3rd edition book so it doesnt have base building in it, always been curious to see what that’s about.

It’s in the TB 2 : Conditioning book.

Do you have that one? It’s the best book

I dont have it. I considered getting it.

In cliff notes, what subjects are talked about roughly?

To be honest mate, you’d be better off buying the book. It’s cheap on the Kindle :+1:

Got the book, great read so far.

Is there any way to do an hybrid between Green and Black protocols?

Black pro from memory is essentially 2x HIC & 1xE per week with 3x strength sessions.

Turn one or both of the HICs into ‘Fast 5’ from TB2 and this is probably as good as you’ll get?

Never run TB and my goals are more physique focused these days, but don’t change the program. 3x5 @ 80% is in there for a reason and it’s good to complete brutal and intimidating workouts on occasion.

You didn’t mention your #1 goal so it’s hard to answer your questions about assistance work.

If the assistance is meant to strengthen weaknesses in the main lift then I’d look at how conjugate training does it.

If hypertrophy is your goal then 5-10 sets per week per muscle is ideal. A set is at or near failure. Drop sets or rest/pause sets are good.

Base building perhaps.

Green at the start then progresses into Black principles for the last 3 weeks