Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
14 Dec

Setting Yourself Up to Win: A Body By Science Approach

It is with great pleasure that I bring you today’s guest post. As you may know, I’m big on identifying and implementing Primal lifestyle hacks that deliver max results with the least amount of pain, suffering, sacrifice and time as possible. So when someone comes along saying they have a research based approach to fitness that will get you amazing results in just 12 minutes a week I listen up. If you are not yet familiar with authors Doug McGuff and John Little‘s Body By Science read on to get a great overview, and check out the BBS website.

Before we get into it let me point out that I agree with Doug’s position that before you start throwing stones or dragging heavy rocks you should achieve a certain base of level of fitness. That’s why I developed the Primal Blueprint Fitness protocol that scales for all fitness levels, emphasizes injury prevention and prepares people for more natural, functional movement patterns. But, as they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Doug’s methodology is one such way – a way that I encourage you to test in your experiment of one.

Enter Doug McGuff…

When one is first beginning to make the change to a Primal lifestyle, the dietary approach can seem a little intimidating, but the exercise portion can seem hopeless to those who are significantly out-of-shape. Much of the exercise in the Primal approach is a functional activity-based approach. In essence, you are trying to recreate the types of movements and activities that our ancestors might have carried out. In the process of doing so, an exercise effect is achieved as a byproduct of the activity. This is how it occurred in our distant past, and it is what our bodies are evolved to do.

The problem when starting out is that the Primal approach to diet can be challenging because we have suffered metabolic damage that makes it challenging to revert to our genetic default state. There are addictions to overcome, and new metabolic trails to be blazed. This is the beauty of Markʼs 30 day challenges…they help you to navigate through the transition period.

While the dietary changes can be challenging, the challenge of exercise can be almost insurmountable for those just starting out. The one significant problem with a functional approach to exercise, is that it assumes a given level of fitness…a level that may not exist. Further, the activity is simply a re-enactment of what a human should be capable of with an exercise effect occurring as a by-product or side-effect. Also, functional movements (running, crawling, jumping, dragging heavy objects) all involve encountering significant forces. Without an appropriate level of conditioning, these forces can produce injury, and sometimes the injury can be bad enough to permanently sideline any effort at achieving fitness.

Do not get me wrong, these functional activities are an important part of a Primal lifestyle, but they should (in my opinion) be the joyful expression of a body fully capable, not an artificial mimicking of the past as a means of producing an exercise effect. So before trying to throw stones or drag heavy rocks, let us discuss how the beginner can start to establish a degree of fitness that will actually make these activities what they are supposed to be: a joyful expression of a strong body.

Setting Yourself Up to Win Step 1: Decide How Much Time Per Week You Can Honestly Spend on Fitness

Be realistic. Most people shoot themselves down with too much enthusiasm. Donʼt think in the realm of 6 our 8 hours, because you know this will not work out in the long-term. Remember, we are looking for a lifestyle change. If I could convince you that you could make major changes in your fitness with just 2 total hours per week I suspect this would make you feel like this is doable. Once you have some hope, you are on your way. So 2 hours it is….120 minutes out of a whole week. Perfect!

Setting Yourself Up to Win Step 2: Take Your Answer from Step 1 and Divide by 10

Yup. You heard right. Divide 120 minutes by 10 for a grand total of 12 minutes. That is all Iʼm going to give you to get into condition to become a functional human animal. Do not let yourself become skeptical. Do not say to yourself “there is no way 12 minutes is enough”. Simply embrace the fact that there is NO WAY that you will be unable to carve 12 minutes out of your week.

Setting Yourself Up to Win Step 3: Be Willing to Be Shown a Way of Exercising That Is So Hard That 12 Minutes Is All You Can Stand

This is where the catch is. If you do this properly, 12 minutes will be all you can stand. The thought of extending this to 13 minutes will not cross your mind. In fact, within the first 90 seconds you will start to think “how much longer till this is over?”.

Setting Yourself Up to Win Step 4: Do No Other Formal Exercise for the Rest of the Week

Thatʼs right…no other planned exercise. But what if you get antsy and want to work out 2 times per week? Fine, but if you do, it needs to be two 6-minute sessions AND they need to be so hard that 6 minutes is all you can stand. In the initial weeks it is perfectly acceptable if you do nothing else. In fact this is encouraged…up to a point. After 4-12 weeks (depending on your starting level of conditioning) you will get the uncontrollable urge to do something active. When (and only when) this happens, you should cautiously go out and do something. It can be as physically demanding as you like, but it must NOT be formal exercise. This activity should be experienced as PLAY…even if others define it as functional exercise. As you become better conditioned, the active genotype that is deep within your DNA will wake up and it will drive you to be more and more active. Once you are at this level, continue to do  your once a week workout with ever-increasing intensity, progressively improving your strength and metabolic condition. As you become ever more conditioned, then you will be well-protected as you learn the skills of a fully functional human.

How To: Getting Started

Your 12 minutes of exercise should be composed of 4 or 5 movements. These movements should be basic compound movements that require very little skill to perform. You should aim for low skill movements because all of your attention needs to be focused on effort and rapid fatigue not performing a complex movement that requires a lot of concentration. If you have access to a commercial gym, performing these movements on quality machines will allow you even more focus on effort as opposed to the movement. The best equipment available in commercial gyms would be from Med-X or Nautilus. Plate-loaded equipment such as Hammer Strength or Pendulum is also a good choice. Cybex and other common pieces can work as well, but are generally not as good as the ones listed above. The movements to perform are as follows:

  1. Pulldown: A palms up, slightly narrower than shoulder width grip is best. This can also be done as a chin up (weight assisted chin-ups are available at many gyms).
  2. Chest Press: Set up so starting point is hands just below nipple level and not too deep (hands even with the front plane of chest-shoulder and elbows at about 90 degrees).
  3. Compound Row: A pulling motion in the horizontal plane.
  4. Overhead Press: Use a palms facing each other grip as opposed to palms facing forward which externally rotates your upper arm and impinges the shoulder joint.
  5. Leg Press: Starting point should be leg and hip joint at about 90 degrees. An extremely deep starting position is not necessary.

Each of these exercises should be done until you cannot produce any further movement of the weight. You should perform them in a way that keeps the muscle under constant stress. Here are some tips: Start the movement very slowly. Take at least 3 seconds to crack the weight stack and 3 seconds to move the first inch. After moving the first inch, just try to keep the movement going along smoothly. Done properly the cadence from that point should take you 5-10 seconds to complete the lifting phase of the repetition. On a pulling movement, hold the contracted position for 2-3 seconds if it feels harder to do so, if it feels easier to hold, simply begin the lowering portion smoothly. On a pushing movement end the positive about 10-15 degrees before your limbs fully straighten. If you fully straighten your limbs the weight will be resting on a bone-on-bone tower and the muscles will unload and get a respite. When you reach the point of 15 degrees before your joints lock, smoothly reverse direction and lower the weight at about the same speed you lifted it or slightly faster. As you approach the end of the lowering phase…slow down. If the weight stack touches at the bottom of your movement, you should allow the weights to barely touch without completely setting them down. Once you barely touch, you should barely start the next repetition, allowing 3 seconds to cover the first inch, then just try keeping the movement going. By about the third repetition you will be pushing as hard and as fast as you can, but you will only be able to go fast enough to move the weight through the positive in about 7-12 seconds. Once you fail or get stuck, do not heave or jerk in order to get another repetition, simply keep trying to produce movement (even though no movement occurs) for another 5 seconds or so. A properly selected resistance will allow between 4 and 8 repetitions. Once you have gone through this procedure on the first exercise, move briskly to the next exercise. You should not rest any more than 30 seconds between the end of one movement and the start of the next. Ideally, once you become more metabolically conditioned, you will have about 5-10 seconds between movements. If you would like to see this workout on video, it can be seen at Look for the videos of the Big 5 workout. You can also check out the directory section which lists the personal training centers around the world that use the BBS approach. The most ideal way to experience this approach would be under professional instruction. Most facilities do not require a membership. Even a single workout would provide a great benchmark for you to shoot for when on your own.

If you cannot go to a commercial gym, you can get started with simple free-hand exercises that I will describe to you now.

  1. Chin up: This can be done with a chin-up bar that mounts in a door jam, on a sturdy tree branch or rafter board or playground equipment. If you are not strong enough to do chins, you can set the bar height so you can assist with your legs. If this will not work, simply do them negative only by jumping or climbing to the finished position and lowering yourself as slowly as possible.
  2. Pushups: If you are too weak to perform strict marine pushups, do them from your knees. If you are too weak to do them from your knees, then do only the lowering portion, lowering as slowly as possible. If you are strong enough to do classic pushups, do them with a few modifications. First is slow movement. Start the first inch very gradually, taking 3 seconds to move the first inch and then keep smooth movement going. Divide the movement in halves. Do the first half (bottom position to elbows bent at 90 degrees) until complete fatigue. After you have exhausted the bottom half, do the top half until complete fatigue (elbows from 90 degrees to almost complete extension).
  3. Squat: Start first by doing a static wall squat. Place your back against a wall and descend to a seated position where your hip joint and knee joint are both at 90 degrees. Hold this position for as long as possible. You are done when you start to slide down and cannot hold the 90 degree position any longer. Once you are worn out on the static, do a deep knee bend but with the movement divided in half. Do the first half until fatigue (from hips and knees at 90 degrees/thighs parallel to floor, up to the halfway up point where knees are about 45 degrees). Once you canʼt do the bottom half any more, then do the top half of the movement until you canʼt go on. Remember to not straighten your legs completely, but to turn back around when your knees get to about 15 degrees.
  4. Static Lateral Raise: This movement is done using a door frame. Stand with your feet just outside the door frame and bend slightly forward at the waist. Place the backs of your open hands in the opening of the door frame with your elbows slightly bent. You should be positioned like you are going to a lateral raise with dumbbells. With your hands in the door frame, begin to slowly and smoothly press laterally against the frame. Gradually build up to a 50% effort and keep up a 50% effort for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, gradually ramp your effort up to 75% effort and continue for another 30 seconds. After this 30 seconds is up, gradually ramp your effort to 100% and continue for a final 30 seconds. When you first start you will think “this is silly”. However, by the end you will realize that this is probably tougher than anything you could do on a weight machine.

Setting Yourself Up to Win Step 5: Rest, Recuperate and Repeat

Finally, realize that the exercise you have done does not directly produce any physical changes. Rather, it simply stimulates your body to produce an adaptation. For your body to produce the physical change you desire requires rest and time. Simply follow the Primal Blueprint in your diet and lifestyle and wait at least 5-7 days before you perform this workout again. Do not incorporate any other deliberate forms of exercise. Be as active as you like, but keep the intensity low. After 6-8 weeks you will start to develop the urge to become more physically active in ways that are more vigorous and challenging. This will tend to occur lock-step with your increasing strength. At about this time you will notice that you are now performing unexpected feats of strength. A common example is lifting a heavy bag of dog food or cat litter into a shopping cart with one hand and suddenly realizing “hey…did I just do that?”. Once these sort of things begin to happen your active genotype that is locked inside your skeletal muscle will “wake up” and you will have the natural tendency to become very active. It is at this point that you can start to incorporate functional exercise and experience the joy of a body fully capable.

Setting Yourself Up to Win Step 6: Don’t Forget What Got You Here

Functional exercise by its very nature is of higher risk. The forces are higher and less controlled. The exercise that occurs is a byproduct of the activity rather than its direct goal. Despite these realities, it is very tempting to forget what got you here and simply transition to this form of exercise permanently. In my opinion this is the wrong thing to do. At this point you are actually strong and capable enough to bring about forces high enough to exceed your enhanced capabilities and get injured. No matter how good you think you are, it is always best to survive to play another day. The best way to do this is to continue a program that is focused on delivering high intensity and low force as a way of continually improving your condition. By continuing a BBS style condition program once every 7-10 days, you can be assured of maximal strength and conditioning so that you can play and partake in functional movement with the highest level of performance and least risk of injury.

Grab a Copy of Body By Science and Start Your Own BBS Self-Experiment Today!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. An awesome workout really doesn’t require more than 4 or 5 compound exercises. The simplicity of this is great.

    Sparta wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Mark’s approach has 4 exercises… push-up, pull-up, squat, plank… its all I do for the most part.

      I enjoy burpees, lunges and even a touch of random yoga now…

      Primal Toad wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Burpees. Rock.

        Abel James wrote on December 14th, 2011
        • Yes they do!!!

          Claire wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • I’d lost a lot of flexibility after changing my body composition with lots of added muscle. 7 minutes of yoga after some reps on the ab roller in the morning (don’t want to do yoga without warming up at all) has returned my flexibility to my high school days! Even being 6’2″, because of yoga, being able to touch my toes has become normal.

        And I LOVE bouldering! Thanks to the this lifestyle we’re living, my strength to weight ratio has increased by leaps and bounds 😀

        TokyoJarrett wrote on December 15th, 2011
    • Too bad if you can only walk, according to most of the blogs by Mark, you will be overtaken by cortisol and your body will quickly go to fat.

      Roy Walker wrote on January 25th, 2015
      • LOL at your name!

        Merry wrote on January 26th, 2015
  2. This completely takes away the excuse from all those people who say they “don’t have time” in their lives for exercise!

    Suz wrote on December 14th, 2011
  3. Great timing for me. I’m starting Stage 2 of The New Rules of Weightlifting for Women, and while it’s a good workout, I’m questioning whether I really want to spend that much time at the gym (3×45/week). I’m going to read this again and give it a try to see if I can gain some of my precious time back!

    Spincycle wrote on December 14th, 2011
  4. Check out Art Devany and his 20 minute work outs.

    Side note: I thought of the 7 minute/6 minute abs video debate between Ted and the Hitchhiker in “There’s Something About Mary”. haha

    liberty1776 wrote on December 14th, 2011
  5. This looks a lot like, almost identical to “Power of 10” by Adam Zuckerman!

    John Pilla wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • That’s exactly what I thought.
      It’s a great workout. Even better when combined with a paleo diet.

      Bob wrote on December 24th, 2011
  6. This looks a lot like, almost identical to “Power of 10″ by Adam Zuckerman!

    John Pilla wrote on December 14th, 2011
  7. I am very much against all of this, if you can’t spare an hour, hour and a half a day to exercise then there is something seriously wrong with your life. There are 24 hours in a day but you can only devote 1/5 of an hour to exercise … give me a break.

    rob wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Really? Why wouldn’t you want to do the most effective, efficient workout and have time left for other pursuits? I really don’t find working out all that fun. If you do, have at it. Doing BBS has given me more time to play rather than going through the motions of a typical weight lifting routine. I used to spend six hours a week in the gym. It bordered on misery but I did it because I liked the results.

      Dustin Bopp wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Are you being serious? An hour to an hour and a half? I love working out. I love quick, 20-30 minute workouts however. More than an hour? Your crazy unless you are talking about serious PLAY.

      Primal Toad wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Less time adjusting your weight belt and chatting maybe…

      Hooligurn wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Umm…. I think he was being facetious.

        Dave, RN wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Gee Rob, I’ve been doing Doug McGuff’s protocol for 20 months. About 15 minutes a week. That’s it. I’ve dropped weight from 215 to 200, have increased muscle mass by 15-20%, have reduced my body fat index from 23 to around 16, and have increased my strength in most muscles (measured by weight lifted) an average of around 25-30%. At 55, I’m in better shape than at any time in my life. Yes, 15 minutes a week, or LESS. Often I go on two week intervals. JL

      John L wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Hmmm. 20 months for 25% gain? If you were not already very strong, that is not impressive at all. A year of barbell training more than doubled my measured strength. Actually, 20 months on any non-retarded strength program ought to get you more gains than that.

        tfarny wrote on December 14th, 2011
        • McGuff writes that everyone has a different genetic response to weight resistance. He cites studies where some people get 2x-3x gains compared with others doing identical protocols. I’m 6’5″ and thin boned and not sure I have the body type to put on serious muscle. A 30% strength gain after 16 hours of gym time seems pretty reasonable to me.

          Frankly, strength gain is OK, but I’m far more excited seeing my body fat drop 40% and muscle mass increase 15-20%!

          John L wrote on December 14th, 2011
        • Dude. Do your math. 12min/1x week for 20 months = aprox 960min. 25min/3x week for 12 months = aprox 3600min. You can’t look at the strength gain in 20 months without considering time invested. 25% gain with only 960min invested is quite nice.

          I for one love the BBS regime combined with play. On the leg press I’ve gone from 109kg to 146kg (33.9%) in 9 BBS sessions (aprox 12min spent totally on the leg press).

          Matt wrote on December 15th, 2011
    • Please re-read. He specifially says you should only do 12 minutes of “formal exercise” per week. He says when you want to do something active, go ahead as long as it is not structured, formal exercise.
      “It can be as physically demanding as you like, but it must NOT be formal exercise. This activity should be experienced as PLAY…even if others define it as functional exercise.” (step 4)

      FoCo Girl wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Trust that if you’re doing BBS right, you’re not going to WANT to do more formal exercise in the week. What Dr. McGuff hasn’t said here, in order to simplify the process for non-experienced readers, is the need for rest and recuperation is critically important.

        You COULD go to the gym and work out again, but you would actually be working against the gains you made with BBS. You would be making yourself repeatedly weaker as you interrupt your body from repairing itself.

        Ernesto wrote on December 19th, 2011
    • I have to agree with Rob here. Do you guys seriously not enjoy your workouts? Some of the best times of my week are training on the ocean with my outrigger canoe team (4x/week, at least 1.5hrs, yes we compete, so yes it’s hard). On my off days, I love smashing it at my local crossfit gym or catching up with the girls for yoga.

      When you work out, your mind it calm and your body is alive and switched on. You create endorphins, hunger, and pleasant exhaustion for the night. And you don’t take office stress home to the family. What do you have in your schedule that’s more important and rewarding than that?

      Dawn wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Well put and I agree wholeheartedly

        Gayle wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • No, I seriously do not like to work out, just the results. I understand that you do, and that is great for you. You and tfarny need to slow your role and realize that different people have different likes and dislikes, as well as different time allocation priorities. I have two kids, work and am finishing my masters. Twelve minutes a week for working out seems pretty right for me

        Gino wrote on December 16th, 2011
      • What you’re missing is a mountain of information regarding BBS. When you’re training with your canoe team, your team is doing a lot of skills development. The timing, the movements, etc.

        What you would probably come to wonder about after understanding more about BBS, is whether your team in fact actually needs 4x week 1.5 hours of such hard wear and tear work and if there is a way to take that out of the equation but still keep the skills development part of it.

        That’s not say that stuff isn’t enjoyable. I love playing soccer, but what I now try to focus on is skills development, and I really don’t buy into having to “train” for the exercise of it. I get THAT part out the formal high intensity weight training that occurs one a week with BBS and I practice my skills. Come game time, I put it all together.

        Ernesto wrote on December 19th, 2011
      • kids.

        Caite wrote on January 21st, 2014
    • or people are just busy, ie 9 hour job, travel to and from work, making meals, playing with kids (which can be is exercise), chores, socialising and time to relax. No body needs to spend more than 30 mins a few times a week max to get excellent results. if you read pretty much most modern ideas on working out the idea is short and intense. i’d be interested to know what your workouts consist of as i’d be inclined to think you arent working intensely enough?

      greg grok wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • that is i’m assuming you are referring to high intensity resistance work as that’s what the article is about.

        greg grok wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • I don’t mind training for an hour a day…but I’d much rather sweat, hurt and get it done so I can spend that hour on some random hobby (something exhilarating like stamp collecting ;P). If 12 minutes gets results, I’m all for it

      Isaac wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • You wouldn’t believe it unless (until) you try it.

        Personally, this has been a game changing working regiment for me.

        Ernesto wrote on December 19th, 2011
    • Don’t forget people sometimes don’t LIKE exercise, if this gets them started then at least its something. More than likely they will do this and get more energy for FUN exercise-playing. Its the only kind I like, I hate formal exercise. I prefer going out to shovel snow above a conventional workout!

      EZ wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • I have to agree with you, although I would say 1/2 an hour to 1 hour a day. Plus I don’t want to do 12 minutes so hard that I can’t stand more. Yes I do Tabata sprints like this about once a week but that is for 4 minutes.
      I like the ‘moving frequently a slow pace’ as the bedrock of my fitness with occasional sprints

      Gayle wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • you’re kidding, right? Do you work full time and have children? If not, go away.

      homehandymum wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • spoken by someone who’s obviously never had full responsibility for small children. as I write this I’m being pulled from the chair by a 2 yr old.

      skinnymom wrote on December 15th, 2011
      • you sound stressed… have you tried the gym?

        Ben wrote on December 15th, 2011
    • After working 10+ hours, commuting, parenting, occasionally volunteering during this holiday season, cooking and eating appropriately primal meals for my family, cleaning (admittedly not very well), and then finally getting to sleep before I drop… there is something SERIOUSLY WRONG WITH MY LIFE if I can’t find an hour or more each day to devote exclusively to exercise?

      Kate wrote on December 15th, 2011
      • Actually, if you are working 10+ hours a day, and on top of that have all these responsibilites, after which you get to sleep before you ‘drop’, there’s definitely something not entirely healthy about your lifestyle. Not you, but your lifestyle. Primal lifestyle isn’t just about food, it’s about balance. and while i deeply, DEEPLY sympathise with you having to do all that in order to survive in today’s world, i woudn’t recommend to ANY of my personal training clients who want to achieve superior health and longevity, to do so much work, before play, cooking, kids etc even come into the picture. As you may recall our primal ancestors worked all of 5 hours a WEEK, in a physical manner too. formal exercise is not fun for everyone, and i would not recommend it to everyone, but if you are not getting to exert yourself for your own sake a few times/week plus do a sprint here or there, you will certainly not keel over, but you won’t be in optimal health and might even get quite resentful of all those kids. the 10+ working hours is a byproduct of our culture obsessed with making and consuming more and more stuff, not in any way a free choice people would make. So this 12min a week idea would work in such a skrewed up culture, not in a primal society. at least in my humble opinion.

        Kat wrote on December 15th, 2011
    • You either don’t have children, or you’re not the one who takes care of them.

      rabbit_trail wrote on December 16th, 2011
    • Seriously? What about those of us who work 40 or 50 hours a week, and attend school full time, putting in no less than 12 credit hours a semester? Add in time for commuting, food, and sleep… yeah, there’s a lot wrong with my life.

      Deanna Eberlin wrote on December 19th, 2011
    • you must have a boring life

      mm wrote on November 24th, 2013
  8. I’ve been following McGuff’s protocol since May of this year. It’s brilliant, really. Prior to that I was doing P90X with okay results but it was like having a part time job. This is so simple, not easy, but quick. I walk out of the gym quivering. I work out fasted ala Leangains. I’ve tracked consistent but not phenomenal strength gains. Once I was convinced I wasn’t losing muscle I decided to keep up with it. It’s like having an extra five hours a week to PLAY.

    Dustin Bopp wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Exactly. And your strength gains are actually what your body can handle. No one “gains” overnight anything… well unless you don’t eat paleo.

      Ernesto wrote on December 19th, 2011
      • Do you guys still follow this protocol? If so, have you continued to make progress? If you no longer use it, may I ask why? I’m considering trying it.

        Mary wrote on April 17th, 2013
        • I am still doing it twice a week. Though after about 4-6 weeks, I switch to Barbell/dumbbell similar exercises – then go back to the 5 machines. Variety, muscle memory, etc. I also do some warm-ups with dumbbells, push-ups, squats – prior to doing the 5 machines.
          Yes, I continue to make progress.

          John Pilla wrote on April 17th, 2013
        • Actually, no. However, I still HIGHLY recommend it for most people. I switched to 5X5 because I was looking to put on some serious muscle. Now, after a year, I’ve made some nice gains. I think the real drawback for me was I don’t think I was ever working my legs enough on BBS since the leg press machine at my gym wasn’t adequate to really stimulate growth. Stonglifts 5X5 is all free-weights and relies on barbell squats each of the three workouts a week which really goes a long way to stimulating muscle growth in all parts of the body through increased growth hormone, etc.

          Dustin Bopp wrote on April 17th, 2013
  9. I’ve read Doug’s book and tried out the protocol (for a short while), but I’m still not convinced that this is a suitable plan for me. It just seems like the gains are too slow, although I appreciate the reduction in stress on the joints and other areas. I’d definitely consider moving to it when I’m older as more of a strength maintenance program.

    Are there any examples of people achieving an elite level of strength following something like this program (say, 1.5xBW bench, 2xBW squat, 2.5xBW deadlift)?

    Andrew wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • I wouldn’t say those multiples are elite, but yes, I’m curious too =)

      Dr. McGuff, how would you work this into a powerlifting program?

      Mountain wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Yes, that might be more intermediate. Forgot to mention I’m comparing it to a standard compound lift-based strength progression program like 5/3/1 or Starting Strength performed 3-4 days a week.

        Andrew wrote on December 14th, 2011
        • Ernesto wrote on December 19th, 2011
        • The idea that you can get significant results from 12 minutes per week is very impressive. But let’s not be confused here. You get your deadlift up into the 400s by doing heavy deads, not by slow burning on the nautilus machine. Not to be a wet blanket about the article or anything but if you want to know how to get to be freakishly strong, look at the guys that ARE freakishly strong and emulate them. You don’t see the Bulgarian oly lifting squad training slowburn circuits on machines once per week. They do 2 a days 6 days a week and go for 1rm at least 3-4 times per week. Serious power lifters workout hard and heavy at least 3x a week. Feeling like you can lift bags of dog food more easily is cute and everything, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this program is going to get you legit STRONG. Remember, this is not a workout designed for powerlifters and football players. This is a workout for completely sedentary people who are apparently really short on time.

          I’ll also mention, as unpleasant and difficult as this workout might feel, machines in general are kind of wimpy if you consider yourself an athlete.

          Rob wrote on August 7th, 2013
    • Before commencing this protocol about a year ago, I was a mid fifties man who had never done resistance training. While I certainly don’t consider myself “elite” or even “intermediate,” I am near or at these ratios now.

      JP wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Was also diagnosed and had surgery for prostate cancer after I began the protocol which necessitated six weeks of no exercise. Perhaps my results would have been better without this time off.

        I had a recent DEXA bone scan recently and my bone density has improved to a Z and a T score of 2+.

        JP wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • This protocol doesn’t call for the use of free weights. Are you just assuming you’re close to the 1.5xBW bench, 2xBW squat, 2.5xBW deadlift quoted above? How is your range of motion? A squat that isn’t below parallel isn’t a squat.

        Bob C wrote on December 14th, 2011
  10. i’m very much inspired by doug’s ideas, and his book, which is great (buy it if you don’t have it). however, i do deviate from the superslow, one set to failure option. i believe in sticking to compound movements, taking plenty of rest, but i think you can embellish a bit from there.

    jakey wrote on December 14th, 2011
  11. This is also very similar to Slow Burn, which I have been doing for several years. I love it. I also agree with the caveats on functional exercise. Even being in shape, I managed to pull a back muscle last weekend after hauling heavy rocks for 45min – but it did take 45 min 😉

    Damien Gray wrote on December 14th, 2011
  12. So basically, this is a crossfit-esque workout.

    Nate wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Not really…I would almost call this the anti-Crossfit.

      Mountain wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • This is really nothing at all like Crossfit. You never do anything this slowly in CF, you certainly don’t do it on Nautilus machines, and you always do with full ROM.

      Kris wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Definitely not Crossfit.

        Ryan wrote on December 14th, 2011
  13. I have the book and have been following “Body by science” super-slow type protocol for months. The exercises I focus on are pullups, bodyweight squats and pushups/dips.

    Prior to this protocol I was doing higher rep regular ( more explosive ) pullups, attempted one arm pullup, one leg squats ( pistols ) and assortment of one and two arm pushups.

    I did injure my joints somewhat with high stress one-arm and one-leg varieties, so I switched to the above “slow” exercise protocol which is supposed to be gentler and less wear on my joints.

    I experienced several issues with this approach. First of all, the author recommends going to failure. On a compound exercise ( big muscles involved ), a true muscular failure in your “12 min” gym session means, you won’t be able to walk out if you did the legs, you won’t be able to steer a car if you did the arms, etc. The neuro-muscular junction is done and it will no longer work for you [much] that day. It will take you a long, long time to get it back to baseline, and again, super slow exercise is notorious for glycogen depletion, so it’s almost like an injury to a muscle. What’s worse is that you don’t become stronger after lengthy recovery — you become detrained.

    From training super slowly, your explosive capacity is diminished. You will be much stronger at steady state static stuff but not stronger runner, stronger jumper, stronger hitter.
    I have noticed that while I could previously do a muscle-up, the explosiveness is lost to such an extent that I can no longer do even one-hand-first bar muscle-up. This is bad because I could always do it even prior to any exercise whatsoever. You detrain and become slow.

    Not to mention, in evolutionary context, the animal that runs to muscular failure or climbs to muscular failure, is essentially someone else’s lunch. Hence, I understand that animals would instinctively avoid intense muscular tension leading to “failure”. Why animal model? Well, they are pound for pound much stronger, much better trained and much more muscular than us, so indeed we could learn something from the animals.

    So, no, “body by science” doesn’t work for me. In the 12 minutes a week, I think people would be far better doing regular exercise, using caution and doing so within reason. And please don’t tell me that we were designed to do super-slow and statics — we were not, or else we wouldn’t develop arthritis from them.

    For those in sedendary occupations, the once-a-week protocol is just not sufficiently frequent to offset sitting ( in front of the computer ) all day long. With 12 min once a week, you’re just as sedendary as you used to be.

    The book does have a point about rest and the need for recovery, and this part I fully support.

    Ilya wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • So I began doing Superslow with a trainer here in SF in August, just doing the Big 5. My first leg press session was 90 lbs., for 1 min 15 secs, for example. I have consistently been able to add weight every week, following the protocol exactly.

      Yesterday I did a leg press at 285 lbs for 2 mins. My other exercises have showed similar gains.

      Please note I’m a 40yr-old woman with a deskbound computer job. I began at a size 16 Levi jean and now wear a size 12.

      I expect to cross 300 lbs on the leg press just after New Years and intend to hit a size 10 jean before Feb. Size 8 is my goal – it seems doable by May, easy.

      I love Superslow – the protocol is great, very empowering for women – and I love the private gym concept.

      With the strength also comes less fear of osteoporosis and reduced symptoms of aging overall.

      I really urge women over 30 to look at a picture of your grandmother at 70. You don’t have to become her. So take your 12 mins. a week now and take yourself to a different destiny.

      moreporkplease wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Could you say more, please, about your statement that superslow causes arthritis? I haven’t heard that anywhere before.

      Also, it is not my experience, after a year, nor is it backed by the science, that going to failure will leave a person unable to walk or drive afterward. It is absolutely true that I have been often unable to stand immediately after doing a leg press to failure, however, the slow and medium twitch fibers recover fairly quickly, within minutes, and by then you could run full tilt. This failure, by the way, is the entire point of the Body By Science protocol and why each set must be kept under two minutes. The reasoning is too detailed to put here.

      I understand those who think, as I first did, that 12 minutes is ridiculous, but now that I’ve been doing this for a year, I’ve actually chosen to shorten the routine to facilitate fuller recovery while my strength is much greater. My prime interest is surfing, which this supports, but too much lifting is too taxing for me to surf at my best. This effect is discussed at length by McGuff in regard to training athletes.

      After my very first session, I understood physically what the science was pointing to, and to go beyond this, at this level of exertion, is not only unnecessary, but is counterproductive. McGuff writes that he tinkered with the protocol and found that those who lifted once a week consistently got better results than those who trained twice. This is my experience and that of thousands of others, according to McGuff and his colleagues.

      billy r. wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Super slow causing arthritis? Hmm, I would think just the opposite (compared with more rigorous and rapid protocols). Not my experience at all (I’m 55). Do you have data behind this claim, or just personal experience?

      I guess this all depends on your goals. Do you want to work up a sprinter’s body, or a marathoner’s body? Both have merit for their goal. Super Slow is like a sprint – short, extreme. And when I compare body photos of top marathoners with top sprinters, I think the sprinters look FAR more natural, healthy, and vibrant. But that’s a personal preference. YMMV.

      As I replied to Rob, above, I’ve been doing Doug McGuff’s protocol for 20 months. About 15 minutes a week. That’s it. I’ve dropped weight from 215 to 200, 38 to 36 waist, have increased muscle mass by 15-20%, have reduced my body fat index from 23 to around 16, and have increased my strength in most muscles (measured by weight lifted) an average of around 25-30%. At 55, I’m in better shape than at any time in my life.

      John L wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • It’s not about cosmetic mass for me. It’s about functional, or I could say, gymnastic strength. All I am saying is my explosive strength is missing on this protocol. In fact, per NASA research,

        As far as arthritis on super slow, the cartilage is fed by constant ebb and flow of surrounding glyco-protein fluid due to natural motion. In my experience, the more static the activity, the less is the ebb and flow, and the worse joints feel. Complete isometrics being the worst, super slow is (?) because speed is highly subjective. Heavy weights lifted slow seems to be the worst.

        There is some research on contractile proteins being lost in isometrics:
        I feel it happening in my muscles due to inability to do efficient explosive work any more.

        Ilya wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Sprinters would never train in this manner. Everything they do is the exact opposite. Explosion explosion explosion, heavy heavy heavy.

        Chris wrote on December 15th, 2011
    • I’ve not heard about Super Slow (SS) causing arthritis either. As I describe above, I’ve had bone scans as a result of a medical issue and SS seems to be helping instead of hurting. Wolff’s law according to the doctors.

      JP wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • You are confusing momentary muscular failure with complete failure… It’s true that after a particularly hard leg press under this protocol it will be hard to walk for a bit… but you should be able to recover.

      Matt wrote on December 18th, 2011
    • This has not been my experience at all. I have gained both strength and explosiveness because the gains I’ve gotten out of BBS.

      The point of going to muscle failure is exactly for the glycogen depletion that we all need in modern day man with overabundance of food energy. And doing low intensity, high repetitive exercises only allows one to reach our slow twitch muscle tissues (endurance), not really deep enough muscular development.

      Sure right after working out to failure, I’m not exactly jumping off the gym seat, but after I catch my breath for a few moments, I am able to get up due to my slow twitch muscle fibers recuperating quickly as designed. I can assure that I can drive my car just fine afterwards too. And I’ll know that my fast twitch muscle fibers have gotten a heck of a workout.

      I’m not sure exactly what you were doing in the gym nor do I know where it is you got the idea that slow/static holds cause arthritis (wha?) but I do know that our biological musculature evolved for those that -survived- being chased down by animals or lifting tremendous weight to stay alive.

      We have muscles that are designed (through evolutionary process) to repair and recuperate above the previous needs as dictated by the stimulus of our environments (e.g getting chased by bears in the woods).

      To our ancestors, it made no sense to have huge bodies if those muscles where not needed for basic survival (energy/food costs would be too high).

      So you have a body that responds very well when you apply serious stimulus, yes to failure.

      But if you feel like doing it the slow way, go for it. You can do it the wear and tear way, and just keep going at it repetitively at lower intensity levels and you will see strength gains as well. But I think this will also help increase your propensity for arthritis because no one can hide from the laws of physics. It really is “wear and tear” on your body. They’re moving parts.

      Ernesto wrote on December 19th, 2011
  14. 12 min a week is a total crock. It’s absurd. Just playing up to lazy people looking for the magic pill/bullet. Show me a person who works out 12 min a week (basically doesn’t work out!) and I”ll show you chronic disease waiting to happen

    RICO wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • “12 min a week is a total crock.”

      If you insist. While you waste your time in harsh words, I’m soon gonna be leg pressing 300 lbs for 2 mins. and laughing all the way.

      Superslow/BBS really works. Sorry, dude.

      moreporkplease wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Please try searching the internet for injuries caused by static contraction training. You will find plenty. Usually people are statically holding this super-heavy barbell in super-intense contraction and suddenly the connective tissue goes “pop” and that’s it.
        I hope you are indeed genetically gifted to play with 300lbs but everybody’s metabolism is different and I found lots of material suggesting to stay away from heavy weights.
        The bottom line is that muscle is a well fed soft tissue and it grows fast and strengthens fast.
        But the joints the muscles are hinged to also need to be in harmony with the weight, you also need powerful cartilage, appropriately big powerful joints, which take a long, long time to adjust, much longer than the muscles.
        Most people find themselves in the situation with powerful muscles but under-developed joints and tendons. If heavy weight is in the mix, sounds like this is not as healthy as we would think.

        Ilya wrote on December 14th, 2011
        • Interestingly, the BBS protocol wasn’t invented but rather discovered by working with senior women who suffered osteoporosis. It was conceived as a gentle protocol that ensured no risk of injury to an aging body.

          Certainly some have now worked up to heavy weights, but that is only because they are so strong that those weights are not heavy to them. There is no explosive movement in the BBS routine, so the weights are actually much much lower than usual. They only get enormously “heavy” after 2 minutes. The weight has to start very low in order to continue moving it for two minutes slowly.

          billy r. wrote on December 14th, 2011
        • Slow repetitions are NOT the same as static contractions…

          Geoff wrote on January 10th, 2012
      • 😀

        If that guy looks really lazy and unhealthy, then I don’t know what a healthy person is suppose to look like.

        Ernesto wrote on December 19th, 2011
    • 12 of the most miserable, gut wrenching and painful minutes of your life. Not absurd.

      El Goyo wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Yes, much like Tabata sprints. I’ll take intensity over duration any day.

        Dustin Bopp wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Rico,

      Please have a look above. I was skeptical, too, until I tried it and examined the science and the clinical results. I am a surfer and anything but lazy. I’m interested in results, not in time logged on the machinery.

      billy r. wrote on December 14th, 2011
  15. My skeptic’s hat is on for this for sure. I guess I can acknowledge that there may be some benefit for this kind of protocol if you are morbidly out of shape as a kind of pre-habit training. But overall this is the antithesis of functional movement – super controlled movement assisted along a single plane with a limited range of motion? It’s only addressing one of the dimensions of fitness, and not even fully at that. The beauty of functional fitness is that with a bit of ingenuity almost every movement can be scaled or substituted to any ability level, even sedentary, obese, and older people. And these exercises almost deliberately remove any and all hip power from the equation, which is the foundation of any advanced athletic movement. Hell, if the Biggest Loser contestants can handle the grind of what they’re put through, I think the average person can learn to use a barbell and do a proper air squat.

    Kris wrote on December 14th, 2011
  16. I read BBS, but can’t remember — what’s your take on developing power? The slow, controlled stuff is great, but how is that efficient for developing athletic ability?

    Josh Frey wrote on December 14th, 2011
  17. Been following the BBS big 5 routine for almost a year now. It have worked wonders to my strength gain. I have also got 5 work buddy’s to try it out and there all hooked now :)

    All of them have different training backgrounds and all of them have been getting some really nice results from BBS.

    Christoffer wrote on December 14th, 2011
  18. The post lost me at the machine focus.

    Further: if the preferred place to work out for this program is the gym then it is ridiculous to claim 12 min per workout. Why spend ca 20-30 minutes on getting to the gym, changing clothes etc. to work out 12 min? Stupid, and the whole session takes roughly 40 minutes (depending on location of gym).


    Thomas wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Which is more stupid: spending 20-30 min. to get the gym, work out 12 min. and get great results or spending 20-30 min. getting to the gym, working out for 90 min. realizing the same or less results? That’s easy math for me. Same results for less time expended. I wouldn’t care if if I could just walk in the gym turn around and drive home if I was able to get the same results. I see people doing little more than hang out at the gym, hogging machines, and just basically getting in my way. I get in, bust my ass for 12-14 min.and get out (sweating, shaking, and short of breath).

      Time spent working out has very little correlation to results. If you feel better about yourself because you put your time in then might as well give up all other time savers like calculators, cars, washing machines…

      Dustin Bopp wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Well monsieur de la carburateur you must not have understood what I meant.

        The initial text of the post gives the understanding that 12 minutes a week is all the time the workout will take. I am saying that this is not the case when you go to the gym since there are other aspects affecting the workout time. As with all programs there are always the warmup part, skill part, cool down, stretching etc. and I am quite confident that when reading the full book the whole time spent on the presented workout is significantly longer then the 12 minutes a week (not counting changing clothes etc.).

        Since I am a paying member at a gym and manage to get there 2-3 times a week I make sure I get some quality time workout, using barbells, kettlebells, etc. To me, paying a gym membership, change clothes, looking up opening hours etc. just to workout for 12 minutes per session is stupid. (With this said, I do 12-15 minutes of workout at home calisthenic wise).

        Thomas wrote on December 15th, 2011
        • Yeah, I wish gyms would let me get a reduced membership, as I only need 15 minutes a week (throwing my keys in my locker takes a couple).

          Probably best to check out some videos to get a real sense how this workout goes.

          You’re not going to WANT to do more than 12 minutes if you do it correctly.

          Ernesto wrote on December 19th, 2011
  19. This isn’t new at all; I mean, Mike Mentzer anyone? Even though it CAN work for muscle size, it doesn’t do anything for

    a) explosiveness
    b) long-term strength gains
    c) cardiovascular health
    d) calory burnoff

    Long story short: in most cases, this IS too good to be true.

    Till wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Have you read his book?…No…Okay.

      Explosiveness is covered.

      Cardiovascular Health is covered.

      Calorie (or Calory) is covered.

      All strength gains…covered.

      Pick up a copy…read it, then refute it…dont just post your opinions (which todays science doesnt support) and claim “in most cases, too good to be true.

      Brad wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • As for Calorie burn off, this method burns far more calories AFTER your workout – due to EVERY muscle fiber being impacted – than running, swimming, walking, general gym, etc.

      Explosiveness comes from your “Fast twitch muscle fibers”….do you honestly think that you are working these out by routine lifting without any resistance or failure, say 50% of your max?…The science behind muscle fibers doesnt support you if you say “Yes”…so, indeed…this method taps the fast twitch (explosiveness) muscle fibers AND the slow twitch – because they both end up fatigued and have to rebuild for that fatigue and stress that was placed upon them.

      Brad wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Agree.

      If someone only works out super slow or static contraction, eventually people approach ridiculously heavy weights and admittedly it’s cool, but what about a simple task of pulling yourself into the boat from the water ?

      Losing contractile proteins

      Ilya wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Why do you keep posting about isometrics? BBS is not isometrics…

        Geoff wrote on January 10th, 2012
    • I agree. I did Occam’s Protocol (basically the same concept) for 3 months and was very pleased with the muscle gain, but it does not increase flexibility, stamina, or the overall feeling of “being in shape”.This is a protocol used by bodybuilders to add mass by getting the body to release natural growth hormones. it is not a workout for novices or someone looking to “get in shape”. In the context it is presented here, though, I agree it should increase confidence and the desire to workout.

      Toby wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Your reply does not make any sense. Obviously, building muscle is a huge, if not the biggest, part of “getting in shape”. Therefore, if the protocol increased your lean muscle, then it is helping you achieve that goal.

        Geoff wrote on January 10th, 2012
  20. My husband and I are 60+ and we have been following the BBS protocol for over a year with very good results. We have modified it slightly (as he recommends for older folks). We work out on a 2 week interval. That gives us more days to fully recover and feel great and just a few days of tiredness. Also we are not going quite to total exhaustion. I think I would need a coach with me to actually go to true exhaustion reliably.

    Previously I hated going to the gym and now I actually look forward to it. Also ordinary life is much better now that I am stronger, especially the added upper body strength. I do other exercise when I teach dance but that is really play and easier too, now that I am stronger overall.

    Of course it takes a bit more than 12 minutes – the 12 minutes does cover the actual exercise but I do have to get dressed and drive to the gym and back and put the results into my computer – the whole thing takes about a half hours, once every two weeks.

    Kathy wrote on December 14th, 2011
  21. I only exercise 15 or so minutes once or twice a week. Usually pullups, planks, chinups, pushups, and overhead press, I do them at moderate speed till failure, and I am in damn good shape. I dunno about the super slow movements though.

    Dharma wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • You mention that you do pullups, etc. at regular speed, to failure. What do you actually mean by “failure” ? I think you actually mean “until you can’t do them any more”. That is “fatigue”, not failure. In “Body by Science” context, the “failure” is actually a complete neuro-muscular junction failure, meaning, that you push until the muscle no longer responds. For example, immediately after super slow pullups you can’t hold a steering wheel, a banana seems heavy, etc. A failure is a failure, not a degree of fatigue.

      Ilya wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • You are correct, fatigue is what I meant. Very few times in my life have I purposely worked till failure.

        Dharma wrote on December 14th, 2011
  22. Mark,

    I wanted to inquire how long it took you of primal living to end the popping knees of your arthritis? I was recently diagnosed with early osteoarthritis.


    Lisa wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Lisa, you might want to try using magnesium oil and massage it into your joints.

      BFly wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • You might also want to check out MSM and DMSO…

        They helped my knees.

        Captain Obvious wrote on December 15th, 2011
  23. If you have a hard time understanding how so little exercise can be effective it is because you have never experienced the level of effort McGuff is talking about. If you’re doing it right not only is that all you require, it’s all you can stand.

    If you’re spending more than an hour working out, much less an hour and a half or two, you aren’t working very hard. Not even close to this.

    Drew Baye wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Drew,

      Watched some of your videos today–I used to train so hard doing similar to this that after squats I was almost sick-I worked up to 250lbs 5/5 for 8 reps-got stronger in all of my lifts, but no muscular size increase-seems like this is great for strength but not for size.

      Contrast that with me now in my 40’s and I started doing high reps (15-30) stopping well short of failure, but still training about once every 4-5 days doing squats, flys, and pulldowns-and I’m not sure how much muscle I put on, but after dieting down, my body looks much better than it did years ago going to failure, almost puking, and getting very, very strong. The most I have used in the squat lately is 140lb. My pulldowns started at 35lbs and now I am using about 95lbs, but somehow I’ve grown muscle doing this.

      Just to clarify why the wussy weights etc…-I have health issues and chronic myalgia pain. It was the only way I could work out. Going slower actually made it worse and going to failure just wouldn’t work so I figured what the heck-something is better than nothing-

      So can you explain why this worked?

      Mcgragor wrote on December 14th, 2011
  24. I really do enjoy reading comments from sleptics who havent read the book…havent read the papers and data that influenced the book and havent dedicated one moment to understanding the “Science” behind this routine…

    He doesnt recommend this workout as a “Primal” workout method – obviously noone 10,000 years ago worked out in this manner or routine; it is influenced by the evolution of humans and the physiology of the human today (and in the past)…READ THE BOOK; then try and suffeciently explain WHY this method is non-sense and why this method is bad.

    He explicitly explains in the book the muscular system and its components and WHY this method is ideal for the most effective results and WHY this method is ideal for greatly decreasing your chances injury during workout.

    If you are skeptical, fine…but please…before demonizing something – have some relevant evidence and data aside from “I drive 20-30 minutes just to get to the gym..” or “you cant drive after you leave the gym”….noone of these can refute the science behind Dr McGuff’s book.

    Brad wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • How about we just get 10 McGuff followers and ten conventional trainees and we go in the street and rumble. Would that settle it?

      Instead, is it possible that there is no one perfect protocol for everyone? Is it not possible that there are as yet not understood principles that must be refined at the individual level?

      I tried the level of carbs that Mark recommends for instance and kept at it for months waiting for an adaptation, and it never happened. It doesn’t disprove Mark’s recommendation, only that this organism wants something slightly modified.

      Body By Science works, and that such a radical approach does work must be seriously considered in all of our mutual investigations of what we are trying to do, which is pretty much the same thing. But I am confident that BBS is not right for everyone. It just works for me.

      billy r. wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • Depends on the definition of “works”…

        If the goal is to achieve massive muscles; doubtful it will “work” for everyone…this is also explained in his book – Genetics.

        The goals that will be met for everyone are noted in his book; specifically those regarding health…eat right and exercise appropriately – everyone can achieve a maximum amount of health (excluding outside influences of course).

        The main question is “Compared to What?”

        How does this approach compare to others categorically…regarding every known drawback and benefit of the differing exercises?

        How does this approach compare to doing nothing…?

        People read muscle magazine articles and try to follow roided up genetic freaks workout plans as if this is pinnacle; sure – you may get swole muscles; but…what baggage comes with this?

        This is what Doug has presented VERY effectively in his research and his book…a method that provides for extremely postive results in every category and reduces the negative effects to virtually zero…all available to essentially anyone who can spare 15-30 minutes a week.

        Not sure at all how anyone (not you) can villify this.

        Brad wrote on December 15th, 2011
  25. As long as you have the effort, the gains will be there. If you’re really curious, track your progress or your body composition for the first few weeks.

    I admit I was skeptical, but I tracked myself and put on 5 pounds of muscle in 1 month. That was way more than I expected – I guess I just needed to add some extra rest to my workouts!

    Aaron McCloud wrote on December 14th, 2011
  26. If you train slow, then you move slow, period. If you want strength, train for strength which is generally a 5×5 set/reps routine at about 85% of a 1-rep max and if you want power you could train at 75% for 6×3 sets/reps. Strength is about moving the greatest amount where speed doesn’t matter and power is about moving a weight quickly or explosively.

    Wayland wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Dont be baffled when you are having endless pain and almost certain joint surgery after your “Power” approach.

      Your muscle cells are biological; your approach at “Power” is pure physics.

      Yes…power = work/time; so the shorter time the greater power…this is one side of the scenario.

      What applies the work?…your muscles.

      Training your muscles in a “work/time” approach doesnt necessarily mean they are now trained to provide more “power”…your muscles are living organisms.

      Dougs book explains in detail why the BBS approach has been designed the way it has and specifically devotes pages to explaining the muscles and how they recover and how the “fast twitch” and “slow twitch” interact with one another to perform certain tasks.

      Training your “fast twitch” muscles with speed is not ideal; this is explained in his book…

      Train your “fast twitch” muscles ideally and then you can apply your physics equation of “Power” as your “Fast twitch” muscles will be doing the Work.

      Brad wrote on December 15th, 2011
    • Slow training does not cause slow moving…that has been thoroughly debunked over and over.

      Geoff wrote on January 10th, 2012
  27. This is totally unrelated to the article, but I thought I would mention that I just saw the season finale of ‘Biggest Loser’ and Courtney, one of the contestants, briefly mentioned (at 25:36) that she is doing Crossfit. I thought some might be interested.

    toaster for sale wrote on December 14th, 2011
  28. Machines? Super slow “feeling the movement” movements? Lateral raises? This entire article troubles me. I’m going to need to reread Brooks Kubik’s “Dinosaur Training” tonight just to properly recover.

    Jim Arkus wrote on December 14th, 2011
  29. Out of complete shallowness: will this be able to produce visible changes in your physique?
    That’s what some of us exercise for (despite the constant dread of doing it).

    NSWM wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • It’s hardly shallow. In fact, it probably follows depths and magnificent curves, done properly. Certainly the starting point of the face is inspirational.

      Christoph Dollis wrote on January 21st, 2012
  30. I like this website, but I don’t agree with this approach at all. Maybe at 3 days a week sure. The other issue is a beginner might not have the strength to control a rep for 5-10 seconds, hold for 2-3. Also, lose the leg press. Do a goblet squat holding a dumbbell or kettlebell at your chin. I would recommend Dan John’s Easy strength 40 day program any day of the week.

    BFly wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Read his book…or YouTube his videos.

      He explains in detail why the 3 days a week (2 day rest) is not appropriate for most people – some people, yes…most people…No.

      Muscle tissue takes on average 7-10 days to recover fully…this is where the once a week approach comes in.

      Brad wrote on December 15th, 2011
    • I also don’t agree, but with you.

      1. The research doesn’t support that 3 times per week is necessary for those who wish to optimise results per unit of time. To maximise results, maybe, but the law of diminishing returns kicks in.

      2. “The other issue is a beginner might not have the strength to control a rep for 5-10 seconds, hold for 2-3.”

      Nonsense. Notice that resistances are adjustable.

      The beginner — in particular one who is older, has orthopedic challenges, less than developed tendon strength, etc. — is precisely the person who should start with a lower resistance and move slower.

      There’s nothing magical about 10 seconds. Studies have shown the impulse passed on to the joints at the turnaround points is nearly identical at 10 or 5 seconds. Presumably 3 or 4 seconds would be a little more impulse on the joints, but still realistic.

      But there is nothing wrong with 5-10 seconds either.

      Christoph Dollis wrote on April 17th, 2013
  31. I’ve done similar training in the past and I will agree you can gain strength and protect the joints etc…however, I have yet to see anyone put on much muscle doing this. I didn’t-but I did get very strong.

    I don’t believe in evolution like many on here, but just to play along, primal man didn’t move super slow when hunting big game or running from a mountain lion.

    Youtube Dr.Mcguff doing his workouts and you will see that he is in shape, but that’s about it-not that lean muscular look many on here are looking for.

    Mcgragor wrote on December 14th, 2011
  32. I’ve been doing Doug’s Big 5 workout for about 6 months. I’ve found it at least as effective as the previous workouts with a fraction of time investment. I also sprint occasionally and do some light running and the occasion short race. I used to run much more and but I cut down and went barefoot about the same time I started on the Big 5. Despite doing hardly any endurance training my race performance is now better than ever which amuses me when I keep beating guys who are grinding out the miles and look terrible on it! I’m definitely a convert to the “less is more” workout strategy and I urge the skeptics to give it a try.

    Chris Wardle wrote on December 14th, 2011
  33. I read BBS, and have been following a system very close to it. I have also read Drew Baye’s materiel which is similar and also very valuable. I have had good results, going from 175 to 200 lbs (muscle gain) in 6 months on the program.
    I enjoy it. It makes sense. And you waste no time.

    ced wrote on December 14th, 2011
    • Hi,

      I’ve been thinking about doing BBS but my major concern is does it gain noticeable muscle mass as this is what I’ve struggled with for many years. From your data, looks that it worked. Also I’m gonna have to check out baye’s work maybe it’s better than BBS.

      Curious, what was your diet like? Did you eat low carb? Also what estimated calories?


      steve wrote on July 21st, 2012
  34. It is truly surprising to me to hear some of the “Nay Sayers” about this workout protocol. In fact it reminds me much of the Nay Sayers who says the Primal/Paleo diet doesn’t work!
    I recommend checking out the 21 convention videos featuring Doug McGuff and Drew Baye then trying it. If you have enough time check out Mark’s presentation, its killer!

    McGuff Presentation

    Drew Baye Presentation

    Drew Baye Demo Workout

    Sisson Presentation

    Adam wrote on December 14th, 2011
  35. I’ve been doing BBS for about 14 weeks. I love it! As a recovering gym rat, it was a little hard at first. Even my gym’s trainer asked me, after I demonstrated the Big Five on him, “But what are you going to do the rest of the week?” I laughed and replied, “Live!”
    It is a very different feeling than regular strength training. When I walk out of the gym, it looks like I am experiencing my own person earthquake. Always cracks me up.
    Try it!

    rose wrote on December 14th, 2011
  36. This is exactly the kind of inspiration I need to get back into my workout routine – except for the routine part. I’m taking up this plan instead. No room for excuses here! Awesome!

    Jen wrote on December 14th, 2011
  37. I’m the beginner Doug was referring to when he wrote, “So before trying to throw stones or drag heavy rocks, let us discuss how the beginner can start to establish a degree of fitness that will actually make these activities what they are supposed to be: a joyful expression of a strong body.”

    Exercising is a special challenge for me. I have fibromyalgia and a very temperamental back. While these exercises are strenuous, it’s possible for me to take them slowly and keep an eye on my body while I’m doing it.

    Since committing to Primal fitness, I’ve been walking more and generally feeling better. I love Mark’s practical, grounded approach, which I know I can integrate into my life over time. For now, I need to start slowly and get the most bang for my buck without hurting myself. I’m hoping Doug’s suggestions will help me build my strength to a more workable level.

    In fact, I just did my first workout session with these movements–the pared-down version with no equipment. My heart is pounding and my muscles are pleasantly warm. Now let’s see how I feel tomorrow!

    Durga Walker wrote on December 14th, 2011
  38. Definitely a fan of compound movements.
    There’s nothing worse than seeing a newbie to exercise doing a whole lot of bicep curls because that’s just ‘what you do’…I’m pretty sure our bodies weren’t made to just lift an object from our knees to our chest in isolation a hundred times…Grok would have just pointed and laughed (and then thrown a dead animal over his shoulder)

    Isaac wrote on December 14th, 2011
  39. The BBS routine is basically the HIT (High Intensity Training) method as put forth by the famous body builder Mike Mentzer and others before him. The BBS “Big-5” routine and technique is closer to traditional HIT (not to be confused with HIIT) than to “superslow”. There is tons of info out there on it. Drew Bay has a good (but long) two hour vid on Youtube that parallels BBS. Drew’s video is a good intro to get your feet wet before reading the book – as are videos on Youtube from the author (Dr. McGuff)…

    Brad wrote on December 14th, 2011
  40. To be honest, I don’t do any formal exercise. The closest is swimming and i do that for fun. I’m an active diver, biker, hiker, have a small garden and animals. And at 50 I’m in better health and physical shape than I’ve ever been.

    digitalgypsy wrote on December 14th, 2011

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