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 ?rst 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 signi?cantly 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 Mark?s 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 signi?cant problem with a functional approach to exercise, is that it assumes a given level of ?tness…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 signi?cant 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 ?tness.

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 arti?cial 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 ?tness 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. Don?t 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 ?tness 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 I?m 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 ?rst 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

That?s 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 de?ne 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 ?rst inch. After moving the ?rst 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 ?rst 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 ?rst 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 ?nished 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 modi?cations. First is slow movement. Start the ?rst inch very gradually, taking 3 seconds to move the ?rst inch and then keep smooth movement going. Divide the movement in halves. Do the ?rst 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 ?rst 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 ?rst half until fatigue (from hips and knees at 90 degrees/thighs parallel to ?oor, up to the halfway up point where knees are about 45 degrees). Once you can?t do the bottom half any more, then do the top half of the movement until you can?t 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 ?nal 30 seconds. When you ?rst 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.

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

    1. 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…

      1. 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 😀

    2. 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.

  2. This completely takes away the excuse from all those people who say they “don’t have time” in their lives for exercise!

  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!

  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

  5. This looks a lot like, almost identical to “Power of 10” by Adam Zuckerman!

    1. That’s exactly what I thought.
      It’s a great workout. Even better when combined with a paleo diet.

  6. This looks a lot like, almost identical to “Power of 10? by Adam Zuckerman!

  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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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

      1. 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.

        1. 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%!

        2. 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).

    4. 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 de?ne it as functional exercise.” (step 4)

      1. 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.

    5. 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?

      1. 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

      2. 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.

    6. 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?

      1. that is i’m assuming you are referring to high intensity resistance work as that’s what the article is about.

    7. 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

      1. You wouldn’t believe it unless (until) you try it.

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

    8. 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!

    9. 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

    10. you’re kidding, right? Do you work full time and have children? If not, go away.

    11. 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.

    12. 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?

      1. 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.

    13. You either don’t have children, or you’re not the one who takes care of them.

    14. 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.

  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.

    1. Exactly. And your strength gains are actually what your body can handle. No one “gains” overnight anything… well unless you don’t eat paleo.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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.

  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)?

    1. 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?

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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+.

      2. 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.

  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.

  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 😉

    1. 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.

  12. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. Sprinters would never train in this manner. Everything they do is the exact opposite. Explosion explosion explosion, heavy heavy heavy.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

    6. 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.

  13. 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

    1. “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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

    2. 12 of the most miserable, gut wrenching and painful minutes of your life. Not absurd.

    3. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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?

  16. 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.

  17. 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).


    1. 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…

      1. 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).

        1. 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.

  18. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. Why do you keep posting about isometrics? BBS is not isometrics…

    3. 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.

      1. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. You are correct, fatigue is what I meant. Very few times in my life have I purposely worked till failure.

  21. 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.


      1. You might also want to check out MSM and DMSO…

        They helped my knees.

  22. 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.

    1. 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?

  23. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. Slow training does not cause slow moving…that has been thoroughly debunked over and over.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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).

    1. It’s hardly shallow. In fact, it probably follows depths and magnificent curves, done properly. Certainly the starting point of the face is inspirational.

  29. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

    1. 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?


  33. 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

  34. 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!

  35. 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!

  36. 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 ?tness 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!

  37. 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)

  38. 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)…

  39. 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.

  40. Mark,

    BBS sounds like a great program. I’ve done some other programs which are similar in that they are based around functional moves and are so intense that you cannot sustain the workout for more than 10-12 minutes. These types of workouts are time-efficient and great for boosting your metabolism.


  41. The static wall squat and static lateral raise described in the article are clearly isometric exercises.

    Applying the intensity protocol described for the static lateral raise, why not do the other movements – pull ups and pushups – isometrically?

    You could also increase the intensity of the static wall squat by doing them with one leg.

    1. That’s a good point. Look how much isometric and slow work gymnasts do-and they are JACKED!

      I’m a bit skeptical, but this is a very good point…

      1. Something tells me the gymnasts with the huge shoulders and six packs will do more than 12 minutes a week.

        1. Not to mention that gymnists that you see on TV are genetically tuned differently than the average joe; so being “jacked” is essentially in their DNA. (with effort applied of course)

        2. That’s very true, but you can’t deny the possibility of effectiveness though I don’t think. Elite powerlifters spend a lot more time than I do strength training. That does not mean that my strength training workouts are not effective.

  42. I’d love to try this but would feel more comfortable with a trainer. Unfortunately, the closest one in the directory is 45 minutes away and that seems kind of far for a 20 minute workout…but it is only once or twice a week…

  43. Must say I am very disappointed with Dr. Mcguff. After posting a couple of times on his “Body by Science” site asking about this type of training and muscle growth I finally thought he was leaving my comment up–today I checked and I can’t find it (obviously deleted). He should have atleast enough courtesy to post the comment whether he himself responded to it or not. Its a fair question. When things like this happen you have to question why? What are they afraid of? Maybe this doesn’t produce much muscle after all compared to the “pumper” routines out there. I’m just trying to research this stuff…I hope Dr. Mcguff will reconsider and post my comment.

    1. He may not be snubbing you. I attempted to post my BBS WOW on his site once and it never got posted either.

      1. A lot of people can’t seem to post there. The regulars send their comments to Ed Garbe and he posts it for them.

    2. I’ve had comments not go up there several times — not censorship, just a flawed site/anti-spam design.

  44. Hey NSWN I am a SS & Medx Certified instructor as well as the 1992 South Florida Overall BB Champion(Mind you not that was with chemical enhancement;but I was not the only one taking them).Yes this program will produce visible & physiological changes better than any other.I will get more tone,more fit,& along with a Paleo diet extremely ripped.I am now 48 am five foot three inches tall,I weight 135(been drug free since 1994) & am think dense & have striations thru out my muscular body.Do the Body by Science workout it is the best in the world.The contradictory information on this blog comes from uninformed or worst yet misinformed individuals & in some cases worst than that,they don’t have a clue!

  45. This reminds me of one of the workout protocols in Tim Ferriss’ book. “From Geek to Freak”, he calls it. 🙂 His way consists of doing just two exercises in each workout in a 5/5 cadence.

    1. Tim recommended 4-7 compound exercises per workout, twice per week.

  46. I read this a while ago, and I found it excellent in its explanations and the way it backed up its methodology. 😀 Definitely worth a full read, everyone.

  47. I’m confused. In the beginning of this article it makes it sound like BBS is a stepping stone to more formal, intense programs of functional fitness. But at the end of the article, it makes it sound like you shouldn’t go back to “functional fitness.” I thought the primal blueprint was functional. Anyone else confused or is it just me?? Do we just stick to BBS or PBF or do we go on to more advanced programs??? Crossfit anyone?

    1. McGuff is presenting this as an alternative to formal programs such as Crossfit or even the PB fitness protocol.

      What he’s saying is use this as your formal program, and then do physical play when you feel like it, which may include many primal-type activities and even sports.

      Clearly, if one is a sportsman or solider or similar, one must still keep up with their skill training, which may include a heavy physical component — in which case, McGuff advises you to reduce your formal “exercise” (strength training) component still further, which he outlines in his book.

      So you COULD use the primal diet plus BBS to gain a baseline of fitness, then do crossfit (and it would be better than starting crossfit completely untrained), but for various reasons, including both time and safety, McGuff recommends BBS-style training, and other physical activities for play, sport, or work, as required and desired.

  48. @All,

    Thanks to Mark for allowing me to guest post here. Thanks for all of you comments. Kudos to MDA readers for being open to novel ideas. For those that are doubters, I can only say that I would not want you to take anything just on my say-so. If you are so inclined, give it a try and see for yourself.

    We have been training clients in this fashion since 1997. We have made many tweaks to the process along the way, but nothing has made as big a difference as incorporating the Primal Blueprint with our clients. I am truly a “workout guy”, but I’m here to tell ya’….you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet. However, proper exercise can really act synergistically with a Primal diet.


    I could not find you question on my blog. Perhaps you should post it here. As a pre-emptive note: your muscular response to BBS or any other adequate resistance training protocol is almost entirely determined by genetic elements. We discuss this at length in BBS. Contrary to what many say, the genetic issue is not a cop-out, it is simply a fact….not good marketing, but definitely a fact.

    1. Dr. Mcguff,

      I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt as to why my post didn’t make it on your website-I appreciate that you responded here and have given me an opportunity.

      You said-
      “your muscular response to BBS or any other adequate resistance training protocol is almost entirely determined by genetic elements”

      I couldn’t agree more-I’ve studied McRobert, Hutchins, Darden, Hahn, Jones, etc…

      BUT, this muscular response is “linked” to the ability to gain weight and put weight on the bar. The argument is always train hard, eat well, and allow adequate rest. Every workout if you can ad a rep here or a few lbs there, you know you are doing well and thus if the argument is correct you are gaining muscle.

      My point is, that I and (many others) have done this and for the most part were very, very successful. I had a good 2 year run back in the 90’s where I was either adding weight to the bar or adding reps virtually every workout. I did a version of superslow part of the time and it translated over to being stronger in my regular rep speed cadence. I generally did 5 reps and only 1 set to failure over and over and I got stronger and stronger.

      Thing is, I got bigger but it was mainly fatter. After dieting down I hardly even looked like I lifted weights and yet I could move mountains.

      Okay, and here is the paradox-fast forward to me now in my early 40’s with health issues. No way could I move that kind of weight today. My recovery ability is horrible and I have myalgia tendon issues. I would be in great pain if I tried to go heavy-even going slower 10/10 cadence (which I tried) caused issues.

      So I did an experiment…

      I started training last July and I ate enough to gain weight. My Bw was around 165 or so (I wasn’t fat, but din’t look good at all). I used “wussy” grandma weights-Example, started with just the bar (35lb squats) I worked out once every 4th or 5th day and mainly did squats, pulldowns, and chest flies. Reps were fast cadence (1-2 seconds) and I did very high reps (15-35) for one or two work sets stopping WELL short of failure. Lets just say to see me train was a joke-no way could you get any muscle doing this. But it was better than nothing and I love to lift weights-so I persevered.

      I dieted down from 185lb starting last Christmas. I now weigh around 158 lbs, but body composition has changed. Man breast are now pecs, I can see my abs and there is a 6 pack. I can see that vein running up the bicep that I only wished I had back in the day. I finally for the first time really saw some muscle gain and I did very little to get it.

      So outside of being abreviated, how on earth could I have gained more muscle in my 40’s using light weights for high not to failure reps as compared to doing very heavy weights to total failure (almost getting sick many workouts) and getting strong as heck, but have hardly anything to show for it?

      I guess in some ways my gains contradict not only your protocal but any mass building protocal and the p90x kill yourself for 1 hour a day folks.

      Anyway, sorry for long response, but I wanted to give enough detail to adequately exlain my position.

      1. I would look forward to Dr. McGuff’s contemplation and thought on this comment.

      2. hey mcgragor,

        i’ve struggled for muscle mass since I started working out 2-3 years. any chance I could contact you via email or something and get a little more information from you on what you did.

        from what you wrote, it just seems like you bulked up with food, worked out a little, and then cut down…which worked wonders.

  49. I’ve been doing BBS for about eight weeks now. I’m 46 and I’ve done all kinds of exercise programs over the years. I had been sedentary for at least 10 months when I started. I have to say that I can really feel my muscles getting harder and despite a generous layer of fat on my legs, I can see the muscle development when I flex. I am using a trainer because I don’t think I could achieve the kind of failure described in the book on my own. There is an intense mental discipline involved in this that is unlike anything I’ve dealt with before.

    As far as weight loss goes, what and how much a person eats is going to trump exercise.

  50. I do five minutes a week. Today’s workout was 5:06. Kettlebell snatches, eight each side. rest. Two-handed kettlebell swings, sixteen. rest. Do that three times, so it’s six ‘events’ of about forty seconds each in my case, with a rest of ten seconds in between.

    Slow, isolated exercises, and to failure? No, haven’t done that for years. Full-body power is what my body craves, but anything you do is better than doing nothing.

  51. I did weight training at the gym, with a trainer, 3x per week for an hour, for seven years before I gave it up last summer. After the first three years, I went from having the physique of an 11 year old to having the physique of a 15 year old in decent shape. But, it was nothing but plateau after that, and I’ve spent the last six months doing little to no exercise because I have zero motivation.

    I now have a high-end home gym and some dumbells, and I’m not using them. But, I can do all 5 of those exercises with that gym, and 12 minutes a week is surely better than no minutes a week. So, I’ll give it a try.

  52. I am fortunate enough to live in Doug’s hometown, and we met by chance. My wife and I (mid to late 40s) decided it was time to get in shape after learning of Doug’s gym here in town. We tried the workout and it literally kicks your butt (in 12 minutes!). After 4 workouts I felt better than I had in 15 years, but no weight loss (5’7″ 175 lbs.). I asked Doug, “why am I not losing weight?” to which he replied “you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet.” Well, after Doug’s BBS and Mark’s PB, I’m here to tell you I’m down 25 lbs. after 7 months (I’d like to lose another 10 and am steadily losing a pound every 2 weeks or so) and feel better than I did 25 years ago. Went from a 42 jacket to a 38 (my college size) and a 34 inch waist to a 31.5. Haven’t had grain for the last 6 months, nor do I crave them, and my sweet tooth is almost gone (same some dark chocolate every once in a while!). People can’t believe I’ve been able to do this with age 50 knocking at the door. Is this an answer to serious body-builders? Probably not. Is it a way to build strength and muscle for the “average” person. It is for me.

    Read the book, look at the research (most VERY recent-since 2007), and give it a try with a trainer. You need someone there to help you over the psychological barrier when you start to fail. And although it takes 20 or 30 seconds for me to get off the leg press, you can walk and drive within a few minutes!

    Grok on everybody…and peace! We’ve all made the decision to buck conventional wisdom, and this may be a big part of the bucking!

    1. where do you find trainers willing to do this with you? seems the one’s in a gym have their own agenda or styles. will they agree with this type of workout? the gym in my town seems to have a mix of styles, but nothing I have seen resembles anyone doing these types of workouts, looks like mostly power lifting and circuit stuff.

  53. My husband and I have also been on a similar program with a trainer and weight machines for the last 7 months, and that is also how we were introduced to Primal Blueprint. Since changing our diet and exercising 12-20 minutes once per week we have each lost 25 lbs. and increased our strength immensely. Before that we were doing nothing. The time commitment issue was big for us with two young children, and my husband running his own business. He certainly doesn’t have time for an hour a day at the gym, nor do either of us have the desire to waste so much time when it is unnecessary to achieve outstanding results.

  54. I’m disappointed in this post. While I wouldn’t expect everyone on this site to follow CrossFit or MovNat or Dan John or Mark Rippetoe or Primal Blue Print Fitness, I actually have valued the Mark’s Daily Apple view on fitness up until this errant departure.

    Seriously, a website dedicated to Primal nutrition and lifestyle is advocating machines in a commercial gym?? Sorry, this won’t pass as a great post.

    I’ll still read the RSS feed every day but if this becomes the norm I’ll need to reevaluate.

    Mark S.,

    Please tell us this guy is a friend and he needed some exposure and you’re just doing him a favor. Let’s stick with the core of the Primal / Paleo universe.

    Full disclosure: I owned a CrossFit gym for 4 years and have a 30+ year history of fitness (swimming, water polo, military, CrossFit)



    1. I know from army basic and infantry training that military PT and exercises get you fit — and cause injuries. I’ve heard similar from crossfit.

      That isn’t to say they don’t have value — it’s to say they’re risky. If one doesn’t have a hardy enough constitution, or if one simply has an unlucky accident, they can cause permanent or temporary disability.

      McGuff’s approach is to do the safest possible hard work in the minimum amount of time, then get on with life. Will this work to be a SEAL or Delta Force operator? I dare say it wouldn’t. But is it helpful for the average person with time pressures who wants to eat healthy to lose fat, exercise to get in shape with much reduced chance of overuse or outright trauma injuries, and have time left over to devote to more pleasurable (for them — you may disagree) life pursuits?


      And nothing Dr. McGuff is saying precludes swimming and other activities for fun and increased stamina once one has safely built a baseline of muscular and cardiovascular fitness.

  55. Hi there

    I am new to all this so I have a heap of questions. I have been reading alot about peak 8 type exercises that use fast twitch muscle fibres and is the only type of exercise (interval type I mean) to make Human growth hormone. Do you believe in this type of exercise not just strength work and if so how do you work this into your strength trainiing

  56. I’ve been following Doug’s BBS for about a year and a half now and the results are just amazing. I’m way stronger than I’ve ever been in my life- I started unable to do a pullup and now I use 55 pounds to weigh myself down for reps. That it’s been accomplished in roughly 15 minutes a week is icing on the cake. Every time I had tried to lift before this I would go for about a month and then just stop for whatever reason. Now I can’t wait to get back.

    For people who are skeptical, I would say to just give it a serious try for at least a month- one halfhearted week won’t really tell you much ( you can even pretend that you’re taking a break by training this way for a month). My ah-ha moment came at an airport when I had to sprint up 3 flights of stairs with my suitcase. I hit the top and was barely breathing heavily- that never happened before even when I could run for hours on end.

    I think most of us are comfortable with the notion that conventionally dietary wisdom is wrong, well this is simply saying that much of conventional exercise wisdom is wrong as well.

    1. That was exactly my a-ha moment too!!!Running up the Rosslyn escalator here in DC and sprinting down the road (in full winter weather gear and heavy purse in tow) to catch a bus to get home to my kid. I sat on the bus and realized I wasn’t out of breath like I would have been a few months prior.

      At the end of the day – the most important benefit I get from this is the needed strength for daily activities (bringing in the groceries, moving furniture, carrying an overly-full basket of laundry up and down 2 flights of stairs, etc.). Pretty useful as a single mom.

  57. I’m a fat (280#) old (57) lady who has been very sedentary for many years. (Doing four hours of water aerobics a week for 3-4 years did little to help.) When I found BBS, I cut down from an hour with 12 machines and not-very heavy weights, to doing Doug’s Big Five (plus the ab machine and ‘back’ machine cause I enjoy them).

    Wow. Amazing. Yeah, I staggered when I finished, and had to sit for a few minutes before dragging myself down the stairs, but I felt SO good, and kept feeling good — and astonished my husband after just a couple weeks by saying on a Sunday “I can’t WAIT for tomorrow! I wanna go lift weights!” (Monday was weightlifting day.) I dropped the water aerobics (my play time, really) to twice a week — but added some serious (short) sprints to it: thank you very much Mark Sisson!

    Then, this past July, Michael, died at only 60, (he had only just started to go primal {sigh}) from heat-stroke-related heart attack after mowing. In my shock and numbness, I stopped going to the Y, and started trying to take over his manufacturing business. I’ve damaged a nerve in my thumb (which is finally, slowly, getting better) and my carpal tunnel (same hand) comes and goes. (Interestingly, it seems related to wheat intake, and amazingly to whether or not I’ve taken my T3-only thyroid pill!) I SOOOOO want to go back and start BBS weight-lifting again, but I’m afraid of injuring myself.

    Can’t afford a trainer, can’t afford to get hurt (I threw my back out once, I’m assuming from a bad position), but really want to get back to it. Any good advice, anyone, on how to restart and avoid injury? Or maybe just some strengthening words to *get* (re-)started?

    Doug, if you’re reading — your book fundamentally changed my life, and I want that back, but I can’t risk not being able to work in the company (my only support). The manufacturing involves a lot of hand and wrist manipulation, so I need to baby my wrist (and, of course, it’s my writing and ‘mouse’ hand too).

    Sorry this is so long, but Doug’s essay really makes me want to feel like that again!

  58. I hate gyms, and I also hate doing weight stuff to “failure” because it hurts so much!! I hate failing 🙂 (I can run fast, though). Because of this, I’m an uber-weakling. I read through all these comments (phew) but no one posted the questions I had, which are all practical. Are there any pictures of the proper positioning for the four at-home exercises? I’m having a hard time visualizing the one with the doorway (lateral raise). How high are your arms supposed to be? And if you don’t have a chinup bar, is there some other way to do the chin up (or for me, the negative since I can’t do a chinup)? And with the squat, what does he mean by “turn back around when you get to 15 degrees?” What, for another squat? I thought you did it to failure! Are there reps here? Geez. And without a wall behind you, there’s no way you can do 90 degrees for both hips and knees, you’ll fall on your butt. It’s just mass and gravity. The hip/torso angle must be smaller than 90.
    I’d love some answers.. until then I’ll just keep doing my girlie knee pushups (I can do 50!!)

  59. Any programme will work for someone starting from scratch so it’s not suprising to see people getting results, albeit they sound pretty modest.

    But what about the hamstrings and the lower back? They are neglected in the routing prescribed for gym users.

    The leg press is the only leg exercise recommended and this is totally quad dominant (and inferior to all varieties of squats) Where’s the concentric hamstring exercise (leg curls, dead lifts??)

    Variety and balance are key to healthy long term weight lifting, and this approach is lacking in both areas. I foresee injuries due to imbalances.

    If it sounds too good to be true it probably is! Spend an extra 20 minutes in the gym and vary your routine every 3 to 4 weeks, and exercise ALL muscles.

  60. I’ll give this a try, it looks like it will make a good addition to my weekly climbing session. Yes climbing is exercise but I do it because it’s fun!

    I’m still rather overweight (5’8″ 200lb-ish) but after a month and a half of weekly climbing I can haul my spare tire up an f6+!
    I will not quit the climbing to do this though – the climbing is for fun.

  61. Elanor,

    You’ve already done it once, so you know exactly what to do to get back where you were. The good news: it will come back quickly.

    WRT to your carpal tunnel and thumb injury, without knowing any particulars, this is most likely due to some sort of repetitive injury. The most common culprit is the computer mouse. It is very unlikely that working out would cause or aggravate this problem. Make certain your computer station is set up optimally (standing desk) and you have an ergonomic mouse. Alternate hands on the mouse so that your dominate or injured hand does not get too much exposure.

    Get back in there! You can quickly become a conditioned and strong fat lady….then in a few months you can be a conditioned, strong, not fat lady.


    Thanks for your post. Mark is a client who has had amazing results combining BBS and the Primal Blueprint. His wife also comes and has made an amazing transformation. Mark is the Band Director at Clemson University, so he is constantly in the public eye. This football season (as compared to last), people did not even recognize him…his transformation was that dramatic.

    His wife also comes. She started out already quite lean. As a consequence her results were immediately visible. However, it was her strength that really stood out. This Summer her son was on a knee board being pulled behind a boat when he got dragged under and tangled in the tow rope so that he could not surface. Jani jumped in the lake and was able to push him to the surface. She told me “before BBS I don’t think I would have had the strength to save him”. THAT my friends is “functional”.

    1. Thank you, Doug, for the suggestions and (needed) pep talk; I AM going to the weight room Monday!

      Actually I injured the thumb-nerve (I think it was a crushing/pinching injury) working in the company (tapping screw holes in gauges {eye roll}. Has to be done by hand to control the speed or the plastic melts… I’ve since bought some better tools that help without hurting). And it IS barely better: the dead spot at the tip of my thumb is starting to get a little feeling back.

      Thank you — and anyone considering Doug’ BBS — do do DO! I can’t tell you how fantastic it made me feel, and how much (and how quickly!) it made me WANT to go lift weights…

  62. Funny how desperately the proponents bash the sceptics… I didn’t say it doesn’t work. My main gripe with the concept is that it is by no means new. Also, HIT (which it is) was originally intended as a bodybuilding protocol which IMO goes against primal ideas about functionality. If you do leg presses, you neglect stabilisers in your hips and core which you would engange if you squatted. Mark once recommended 5×5 as a strength training protocol and these two are complete opposites. Again, it does serve certain purposes, but it isn’t a)new b)extremely functional.

    And NO, I have no intention of reading the book… I don’t care enough to do so.

    1. So what? don’t read the book then.

      So it’s not new, not to you! However to some on here reading this for the first time it is!!!

      BBS slots in with functional to me. lift heavy things, sprint once in a while and play, seems to be what Doug McGuff is suggesting. Being primal is eating right, exercising (or not it’s your choice), playing and enjoying life. Holy cow squat if you want instead of leg presses IT’S YOUR CHOICE.

      Your main gripe is it’s not new? Is that it? That’s all you’re concerned with? You must be bored.

  63. More and more I have found that body weight exercises like pullups and squats make up the core of my exercise routine. Makes keeping up while I’m on the road much easier.

  64. i’m curious enought o give it a try, but i had a question or two.

    1. can i continue to go on walks/hikes?
    2. how much weight are you supposed to start with, or how do you figure out how much weight to start with?
    3. for a begininer should you get a trainer, or is this something you really can do on your own?

    thanks in advance!

    1. 1. Yes you can go on walks and hikes.
      2. This will be easier to figure out if you are already doing these exercises, if not it will be trial and error. If you don’t get 4-8 reps, you’re using to much weight. Body weight wise I did a lot less repetitions than I thought I would do.
      3. Depends on your fitness level and experience. If you’re experienced you probably don’t need one, although it would be wise to have a friend watch the stop watch. If you’re inexperienced, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a good trainer show you proper technique.

  65. Do you have a video or diagrams/pictures showing the door frame exercise?
    I can’t visualize how this works.

    Also, what can you substitute if you don’t have a chin-up bar?


  66. I started SuperSlow with a trainer (to ensure I was doing it correctly) Feb 14 of this year in San Jose. I have gone from leg pressing 165 to 255 – lost 15 lbs (130 lbs to 115)- and went from a size 14 to a 4. Working out this way creates lean/long muscles, not the bulk of typical weight lifting. I tried “regular” exercise, but could not get smaller, even with Paleo eating, so I love SuperSlow. My boyfriend had been a traditional weight lifter. When he switched to SuperSlow, he began getting stronger and he prefers the new look of his muscles. Yes, it is difficult to walk and steer a car after the workout. I usually have to rest awhile and recover before managing to open my car door. I still walk/hike and my boyfriend uses Yoga to stretch.

  67. Always thought that the “workout 3 days a week/rest in between” was the gospel truth but now I’m going to have to rethink it.

  68. It is amazing to see how vehement people can be in their opposition to a concept without bothering to trying to understand it.

    1- Dr. Mcguff never claimed genesis of these concepts was completely orginal.

    2- He didn’t come up with the catchy idea of “the 12 minute workout” then back engineer a program to fit it. He came to it through years observation and research.

    3- The basic concepts are really not that radical. He simply suggests that you remove that which is superfluious from your workout, rest adequitely and eat real food.

    4- If you doubt one can become extremely strong using these concepts watch a Doug Holland video on Youtube.

  69. Great Posts!!

    Just to weigh in here. I’ve worked for Doug at UE for over 5 years. When I first started I too was a skeptic.
    During the hiringn process he made two comments…”try it yourself for 6 months”…and “listen to the clients”
    Well, it didn’t take 6 months for me to see incredible strength gains over my convential workout protocol that I had used for over 30 years.
    And it certainly didn’t take 6 months for the 100+ clients to let me know how this protocol and UE had changed their lives.
    But on the downside, we have many friends in this area that came to find out where I was working. And in the beginning I would explain very excitedly how fantastic the program was.
    And to almost a person, I would get nothing but pushback on how it just couldn’t work. And sometimes it actually became argumentative.
    So I learned to avoid this potential conflict by, when asked, simply getting it down to 25 words or less and then saying “if you want to know more, come try it” and then I walk away.
    Because I hate to say this, but in my minds eye, if you haven’t tried it but still feel you’re qualified to put it down…that’s stupid…and you can’t fix stupid.

  70. Kamila,

    For static lateral raise you just want to push against an immovable object with your arms 45 degrees from your side. You can do this with a doorframe or even a belt or a towel wrapped around your hands (you just have to lean forward slightly so the belt or towel clears your thighs).

    I do not have a chin up bar, but a tree branch from the tree at the end of my driveway serves me well. Wal-Mart sells door frame chin-up bars (“The Perfect Chin-Up” is a great choice).


    Thanks for your input. He is on the payroll, so his comments may be biased. Seriously though, Ed is now in his mid 60’s and is stronger than he has been at any point in his life. He is a poster child for what being in your 60’s should be. His wife Barb has also made an amazing transformation combining BBS and the Primal Blueprint.

  71. Seems like a typical debate about exercise protocols – lots of people with strong opinions based on their own personal experience and reading, which they want to generalize to everyone else, regardless of circumstances.

    First thing to acknowledge is that not everybody has the same goals for a strength program. A 20 year old kid whose primary goal in life is to get big, and loves being a gym rat may think nothing of spending 2 hours a day at the gym. (He might even have the recovery capacity to hit it hard 6 days a week without resorting to steroids.)

    But if you are a middle aged working professional, making a lot of money in a high stress job, with a tight schedule, and a family, then a little more thought has to be given to the time efficiency of the workouts that you do. (McGuff, by the way, is an MD, works as an ER physician; I think that is his primary profession.)

    Likewise, if you are past 60, and are mainly interested in maintaining functional strength into your retirement years, then your priorities are likely biased toward avoiding injury, and working within your more limited recovery capacity.

    Exercise protocols like HIT seem to be tailored more toward time constrained people who want to develop sufficient strength and conditioning to maintain health while minimizing the time investment.

    Superslow is a variation of HIT that was developed by a guy who was working with elderly people with severe osteoporosis. His challenge was to build up their strength without overloading fragile bones, and this is what he came up with. That history suggests that such protocols might be more suitable for those who place a higher premium on safety and injury avoidance.

    Whether or not HIT and SuperSlow are suitable for those with aspirations to be elite or professional athletes, or a champion body builder is of only passing curiosity to me; I don’t have a dog in that particular hunt…

    Speaking just for myself: Even when I was young, I found out that working out 3x’s per week with weights just didn’t feel that good. I’d be fresh for the first workout, then flat during the second, and burned out for the 3rd. As I got older, I generally settled into a twice per week schedule.

    Lately, I’ve scaled it back to one hard weight session (heavier weights, to failure), and one easy session (circuit training, higher reps, light weights, like a cross fit MetCon). This approach probably says something about my own natural limits in terms of recovery capacity. Others might be able to go flat out 5 or 6 times a week for an hour and a half and not end up with over training issues. Good for you! I ain’t you!!

    While I do get some cardiovascular benefits from my two weight training sessions, I also throw in a couple more traditional cardio workouts just to help keep my blood sugar stable: Once a week, I do a 20 minute workout with wind sprints on a stationary bike (High Intensity Intervals), and once a week I do an easy 20 minute run. So overall, my exercise program takes less than 2 hours a week, all at home with no travel time.

    Years ago, I did belong to a Nautilus facility, and did the circuit using the prescribed exercise cadence. If I pushed I hard, and didn’t rest between machines, I could pretty well burn myself out in 20 or 25 minutes. I felt like I was getting a pretty good workout, and it did help my strength. But it wasn’t magic – I didn’t turn into Arnold S. or Clay Matthews.

    When I have the chance to workout on machines these days, I still like to take the same approach – pick weights that are challenging to do for 8-12 reps to failure, using a fairly slow and controlled movement. I can pretty much fry myself in about 30 minutes, and that is about all that I really want or need.

    One thing that I have changed when I do machine exercises: I now pretty much avoid the single joint isolation machines. For me, at least, those kinds of machines seem to have a tendency to cause joint and tendon issues, once the weights get heavy. So I prefer compound movements.

    Mostly, though, I workout at home with free weights and body weight exercises. I’ve found that an HIT approach is harder to do under those circumstances, because control of the weight becomes an issue as you fatigue, and because of sticking points in the exercise. So at home, I find it takes more exercises and a longer time to ‘fry’ my muscles. My typical approach it to doing a series of supersets, each targeting a particular muscle group. Within each superset, I just do one set of each exercise, and to failure if there are no safety contraints. As an example, my “push” superset would be: dumb bell bench, following immediately by weighted dips, and then push ups until I can’t life myself off the floor, even from my knees.

    In general, I find that when I do shorter, more intense exercise routines, I’m more likely to do them regularly, and it seems like I suffer less overuse injuries. I’ve settled in on a weekly routine that leaves me feeling good, keeps me in reasonable shape, offers quite a bit of flexibility, and doesn’t chew up vast amounts of time.

    My advice to others: Try a lot of things, stick with the things that work for you and leave you feeling good. Avoid things that cause injury, or leave you feeling burned out. Don’t get dogmatic or fanatic about any particular system or approach.

  72. This looks almost like a typical bodybuilder routine. Plus he is saying: “If you can use machines, do it” – that’s total BS. Didn’t he say earlier “Oh, well this is how you’ll become a functional human animal again” ? I think he did!
    So how are machines functional and natural!?

    1. Machines provide resistance. Working hard against resistance, resting, and eating properly, build muscle. This allows you to be more functional.

      Barbells by the way aren’t “natural”, any more than shoes are, even “five-fingers” (made of synthetics), nor even chin-up bars.

  73. Craig,

    Good post.

    My opinion only!!

    My takeaway from it is you need to do what works for you…physically and mentally.
    HIT is certainly not for everyone. It is certainly not fun and can be borderline painful (the burn)…and there is no “social” time that some folks enjoy about a gym.
    The endorphin rush only happens once a week instead of 2-3 times.
    And for some folks it is mentally challenging since the brain tends to push-back due to the intensity of the program.
    At UE we don’t advertise much for one simple reason…when folks come in from referrals thay have an idea of what it’s about and what they can expect…and they’re hearing from an outside source that what seems preposterous to many is in reality not so.
    So you’re right…folks need to do what they feel is appropriate for them. IMO any exercise is good exercise…we just feel some is better than others.
    Plus the economy can’t afford to have Curves fold!
    BTW…some folks have had problems posting on the BBS site. If what you’re posting doesn’t go up, e-mail your post to me at [email protected] and usually I can get it posted.
    Thanks and hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday!


    1. Yeah, there’s tons of WordPress blogs where I have no difficulty posting — I’ve had LOTS of trouble posting at BBS, which is regrettable. That was part of why I haven’t commented for months. It also made me mad, until I figured out it was technical, and angers other readers as you see.

      Somehow or another, by adjusting your spam filter or whatever (Askimet is GREAT), you folks should fix that! Would also save you some time personally, despite your kind offer to help posters out.

      1. Great comment. May your fastball always be straight and true, and your curveball never so.

  74. Glad to see Body by Science get some attention on this site. I noticed some informed and unfortunately uninformed comments regarding the article.

    I have a couple comments for all.

    -Anything that makes you stronger, makes you more “functional”

    -Every muscle in the body could be called a “stabilizer”

    -Everyone has a certain phenotype, you can’t change your body/phenotype. Genetics plays the largest role in how you look/muscle build/height/etc.

    -A Big 5 workout with super slow protocol, gives athletes a large edge over others. In traditional workouts, say 3 times a week, the fast twitch muscle fiber is burned out and will see none or extremely limited growth, as it never has time to recover. Body by science allows the adequate recovery period for these motor units and fibers. The fast twitch muscle fibers are the most important for athletes, because they are the motor units recruited for all athletic movements. The slow twitch muscle fiber that many programs are geared towards, has the least chance for growth and really has little benefit on athletic movement.

    -Injuries are so prevalent in athletics. The reason: Overtraining.

    -You don’t have to workout “explosively” to be explosive. Skill training is where you work on those techniques not your exercise program.

    About myself: I am a college baseball pitcher with a 90 mph fastball. I’ve done Dr. McGuff’s program for over a year and a half now. I’ve personally seen the results and the difference between other programs. This is definitely the way to go. It is smart, goal oriented, and safe.

    Merry Christmas to all and Happy Holidays!


    Twitter: @BuetMan

  75. This promotes mainly sarcoplasmic hypertrophy/muscular endurance. The longer the time of lifting the less myofibrils are recruited. The long recovery is interesting, based around a wound healing model. In CF we have a lighter days to keep muscle pathways open and not training to absolute falire keep a nice reserve in our recovery bank.

  76. MUNN, J., R. D. HERBERT, M. J. HANCOCK, and S. C. GANDEVIA. Resistance Training for Strength: Effect of Number of Sets and Contraction Speed. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 37, No. 9, pp. 1622-1626,2005.

  77. Does anyone know of a video showing the Static Lateral Raise as described here? I couldn’t find it on the Body By Science and a google search showed nothing. I feel like a fool for asking, but I just want to make sure I’m doing it right.

    1. Honestly, this is a great article. I agree with it all 100 percent, but I absolutely love doing long workouts, but sometimes I just get that urge to sprint or go out for a 2 hour walk, whatever works for you is good. 🙂

  78. I do not like gyms. I also do not possess weight machines. I do however want to try the at home modifications mentioned in the article. I am wondering if there is a way to get some video or still pics of the exercises being performed because while the directions are well done, I feel like perhaps I am in the wrong body position. The BSS site and the youtube vids I have seen so far focus on the weight machine exercises, not the at home maneuvers.

  79. have a question: how much weight do you use for these slow workouts? is their a formula for how much weight to employ?

  80. Select a weight that allows 4-8 reps or 90-180 seconds set duration. Generally this is about 75-80% of your usual weight when you start out.

    1. thanks for the info. hard to gauge the weight. for instance, my first time was a chin up . but I had to do it in reverse, but no way could do 4-8. could only manage 2 1/2, but nowhere near 90 sec, I weight 230 lbs, now way would my arms do that for 90 sec!

      1. I may try a gym to see if a pull down is better for me. the wall squats, were killer, could not walk for awhile.

    2. Dr. McGuff,

      I’m preparing to train during the off-season at home with dumbbells (5-50lbs max)in place of the leg press, would squats work? I can come up with exercises for arms, shoulders, etc.

  81. I’d love to have a picture of the lateral raise doorway exercise. Can’t picture it… I got the push ups, pull ups, squats, but can’t see the lateral raise one. Thanks!

  82. A US Doctor shares one of the most important health discoveries in years in this beautifully presented artistic lecture.

    Click my name to see the video while its still at the top of my blog.

  83. I have used the Body By Science workouts for the last 3 months. (12 workouts on Nautlius Nitro and 1 workout using adjustable dumbells…) So, in the last 3 months I have spent approximately 180 minutes strength training.

    I have absolutely no complaints. I am certainly stronger, and look forward to ski season. (If it ever snows…)

    So, I feel no need to go out into the streets to rumble, read Dinosaur Training, nor buy a GI Joe.

    And, to answer NSWM’s question, yes it does change your physique.

  84. I have a back injury that prevents me from doing much regarding strength training and so cardio. If you are able to follow the basic MDA instructions with regularity you are going to be fine. I consider all the other stuff to be suggestions. Take what works for you, your abilities and your schedule, and leave the rest. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay!

  85. Hi everyone.. I have a question, if we follow this 12min intense training program by Doug McGuff, does that mean we should also drop sprinting as well in order not to interfere with the recovery process? Or within one week, can we still do this 12min intense workout and 1 sprint session within the same week?

    Many thanks


    1. Chad,
      No problem doing sprints 1/week, just leave it a couple of days after your workout.
      This has come up on Doug’s website before.
      I’ve being doing BBS for 2 years now, with occasional sprints (on an ergo) and I’m very happy with the results I get.

  86. I worked for a little while at a gym that did only the BBS workouts–known also as H.I.T (high-intensity training) and “Super SLo-Mo”. I also was put through the workouts that I put my clients through.

    This is the most intense workout I have ever experienced. The bulk of the training is in the mind, however. You quickly learn how easily you give up mentally, when you’ve got lots more in the physiologic tank. It’s not the be-all-end-all, and anyone who claims this for any exercise protocol should be viewed with skepticism. But, for the time spent (around 15-20 minutes including quick water breaks between exercises) I’ve never worked harder in my life, or felt so totally muscularly spent after a workout.

    If you are put through this workout properly, and stick with it for a couple of months, your brain starts to catch up with what your body can do, and you can get yourself totally spent in 15 minutes. I highly recommend trying this for a few months as another great tool for a healthy lifestyle. The best benefit is realizing how to truly challenge yourself, something you can apply to any workout protocol. Good luck everyone on your fitness and health goals!

  87. I’m confused about the body-weight exercises. When you say “Divide the movement in half” and “Do the first half to fatigue” then “Do the second half to fatigue”, what do you mean? Am I doing sets of half exercises? Or am I going so slow that I get fatigued by the time I complete one rep of one half of one exercise? If so, how can I push all the way up (the second half of the exercise), when I am fatigued by the first half of the exercise?

    Please forgive my ignorance, I’m just failing to see how to do that.

    1. David, I responded to your question in my response to Joe’s, it was after yours on the message board.

  88. I’m with David B, a little lost on how to read the squats section of the body-weight exercises. I understand the wall sitting technique, but I’m having trouble understanding divvying up the deep knee bends, or just picturing how I should go about.

    1. Joe, since you have the wall sit, you’re half way there. With your knees bent at 90 and your hips bent at 90, your back will be flat against the wall. This 90 degree position will be your starting position when squatting, but you won’t be against the wall, instead you will be doing body weight squats. Starting at the 90 knees/hips position you will then go up to the halfway point between 90 and fully standing, looking at your knees from the side the angle is actually about 135 degrees. He refers to that as the 45, your thighs are really only 45 degrees from the starting position, but if you were looking at yourself from the side the full angle of your knees would be 135 degrees. Does this make sense? Sorry it was repetitive.

      As for the halves of the exercise, you are dividing the pushup and squat movements into halves as he describes, a lower half and an upper half. David it is not easy, you are correct in that thinking. You perform the lower half of both movements first to failure, and then the upper half till failure. You may not be able to get as many repetitions on the top half and you’ll find it’s much harder to control your cadence and form on the top half as well.

  89. Update: So I just did the workout and I was very impressed with how difficult it actually was to do the exercises with the appropriate tempo and form. It was as mentally taxing as I thought it would be. It was also more physically demanding than I thought it would be. I thought for sure I’d do more pushups and pullups than I actually did, but that was not the case. I had the same spent feeling after the workout as any “normal” workout I might do on my own.

    Difficulties: I found it very difficult to move only one inch in 3 seconds, my tendency was to move more than one inch. I also found it hard to watch the clock moving so slowly because it takes a lot of mental focus. I think it might be easier to just do one repetition in x number of seconds. For example, Dr. Doug says 3 seconds for the first inch, and then 5-10 seconds after that, so maybe making the repetition 8-13 seconds,not including the hold for 2-3 seconds for pulling motions. I’m sure there’s a reason for the 3 second one inch, I just found it difficult to keep track of, and I can’t really enter that into my interval timer.

    I think it will take me another workout or two to feel completely comfortable with this and hopefully I’ll have all the bugs worked out.

    1. Jordan, good on ya for trying it out! Yes, it’s very hard to pay attention to timings while doing the workout. It was designed to have someone guiding you through with a stopwatch. Having said that, what really matters is not x inches in y seconds, but keeping your muscles under constant tension, and having an idea that you were able to do so for around 3 minutes (this is a debatable number, but the idea is you are lifting a heavy enough weight that you’ll turn to jelly in 2-3 minutes or so).

      As for 1 inch in 3 seconds, the reasoning behind starting this way is to teach you to start very slowly, and not have momentum going into the movement (and so not using bad form, such as throwing your head forward and pulling your back off the pad when doing a seated chest press, for example). Starting so slowly means you really have just that agonist muscle and the movement’s synergist muscles doing the work, and the head and neck and rest of body are as relaxed as possible, which helps prevent headaches and a sore neck.

      As with any protocol, this isn’t the end game. Super Slow folks can be very dogmatic, including inventing a definition of exercise, that, surprise, matches exactly what their protocol says to do. I think the truth is that we need bouts of super slow, and at other times, things like interval training, Cross-Fit, etc. The body really does plateau, once the brain and neuromuscular pathways learn a movement. The body doesn’t get bored with a workout, it gets more efficient and so the amount of work the body performs decreases. Change up the workout is what I say, but always start from a good base of form, posture, correct flexibility and balance. Any way, that’s enough of my dogma 🙂

  90. Just wanted to report back: I HAVE gone back to the Y and restarted my “Body by Science” workouts. It feels GREAT (after the shaking stops {smile}). It’s only been three workouts, but I’ve actually added 15 pounds to the leg press already (it was feeling a little too easy). (!!)

    I wrap my wrists with ace bandages, am very careful about position, and move very slowly. Love it, and glad to be back at it.

  91. I started Dr mcguff’s big 5 routine 3 years ago at 280 lbs. I am now a lean 190lbs lifting almost twice the weight per movement. I started doing the big 3 after about 6 months of the big 5. I also had to move my training days to once every 11 days to get results…. say what you will, paleo +bbs is a winner in my book.

  92. A bit lost of the static lateral raise he mentions on the free-hand exercises, could anyone send me a photo / video of what to do?

  93. Buy the book. It’s 15.00 on amazon. It has all the info you need.

  94. I am a type 2 diabetic and I need the activity to. Help keep my sugars under control even on a carb restricted paleo diet. I bought the book and have gone through it. I had my first bbs workout that I started with twenty minute walk on the treadmill. If I am lifting one day out of seven, should it be a problem if I decided to do thirty minutes four to five days?

  95. Hello:

    I’m so excited I found this article. I first found out about BBS on the forums here Marks Daily Apple. I read Marks Books and then BBS, but gave up starting BBS, because at the time I had no access to weight training equipment. So I started doing You Are Your Own Gym. However, being 48-years-old I’ve had some difficulty mostly with the lower body movements I end up over training. When I read BBS I apparently missed some of what Doug McGuff shared in this article about body weight exercises that will also work. Plus now my financial situation has improved to where I can afford to join a gym.

  96. Hey, I’m looking for some exercises I can use with the Body By Science protocol. Anyone have any suggestions or favs they’d recommend? Thanks!

    1. The best are multiple joint exercises–just like Mark Sisson’s Primal approach: squats/leg presses, chest presses, pullovers/lat pulls. So, if you are talking about things you can do in a gym, hit the specific machines if they have them all:
      Seated rows
      Chest press
      Lat Pull-downs (seated, facing away from machine, pulling bar down to chest)
      Leg press
      Lat Pullovers

      If not talking about a gym, then do body weight squats/wall squats, focusing on, among things, squeezing the glutes and not just using the quadriceps for the positive movement; push-ups in all varieties; pull-ups. Nothing better than these simple exercises that work multiple muscles. You can do H.I.T/slo mo movements with each of these (the wall squat is already an isometric exercise, so a little different), but the push and pull-ups I do as slo-mo, and it really works you hard. Try also some “rocking Chairs” (from You Are Your Own Gym) where you get in a classic pushup position. From the book:
      “Start in the beginning position of a Classic Push Up, your body in a perfect
      line, your arms straight and your hands directly beneath your shoulders upon the floor. Now push your body slowly forward 6-10 inches with your toes, keeping your arms straight. Return slowly back to the starting position”

      Hope this helps. And I’ll say that BBS/H.I.T training is another tool in your arsenal, not the be-all-end-all, just like any other form of training.

      1. Thanks for the reply Steve! I should’ve also mentioned that I’d be looking to do the BBS workout with Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbells I have at home. If you know of info online where I can find exercise info on BBS using dumbbells or you have some additional(maybe better)suggestions, fire away.

        I’m just using BBS for a off-season workout after softball is done. Thanks again!

  97. The things i dont like about this way of excersising is 1 i pay alot for the gym and i enjoy going often, 2 i play alot of sport and i need to train 4 times a week for it, the sport is soccer and i really enjoy it so i dont want to quit just because i may be overtraining and also i get bored alot and anxious without visiting the gym frequently.

  98. I am in love with all things primal when it comes to diet, but I’m not loving the exercise, I don’t care for abs or a muscly athletic fisique on women. I prefer a slim lean look without muscle definition you can see just by standing alone.

    I don’t enjoy typical circuit training style workouts, infact I hate them. They are the main reason I have failed to get fit.

    So I ask is 3 to 4 intermediate 30 to 45 minute sessions of yoga a week along with walking everyday (I don’t drive) and keeping up with 2 home schooled children daily enough to trim down along with a strict paleo diet?

    I love yoga so much, it’s the only body weight exersice I can stand.

  99. Anyone know what happened to the Body By Science web site? It just disappeared a day or two ago. Did Dr. McGuff decided to quite blogging?

  100. Doug McGuff, MD may just be one of the wisest medical thinkers out there. Just when I thought I’d distilled most of the material out there on exercise protocols (Hollywood Fitness, Circular Strength Training, Bodyweight Exercise Revolution, TACFIT, Flow Fit, BTGB, Maxalding, Transformetrics, BarTendaz, Turbulence Training, Peak 8, P90X, Crossfit, Naked Warrior, Body by Science, Starting Strength, MovNat, Primal Blueprint Fitness, Convict Conditioning…), it wasn’t until I listened to McGuff’s Mercola interview that it finally dawned on me: time under MAXIMUM primal tension. My best interpretation of this concept at this point in time is the Convict Conditioning 1 protocol performed with McGuff’s BBS principles, but with each rep enhanced by isometric holds at the joint angles where the muscular leverage is strongest (usually between 75 and 90 degrees – watch Bill DeSimone’s 21 Convention 2007 Congruent Exercise presentation, as well as McGuff’s Paleo, Strength & Diet presentation at the same event on YouTube). After several months of this synthesis, I am truly astonished at the results.

  101. Is there anyone in this discussion thread that has used or currently uses the Body By Science protocol that has gained positive results (muscle, strength, etc) ?

    I’ve been reading about it for more than a year or so, and considering adding it to mix up my routine. Mainly, I’ll train with Bowflex dumbbells at home. I really would use the protocol for conditioning after softball season, but we’ll see.

    Thanks, everyone…

  102. I’ve been reading the book but I have yet to find a section that talks about how to determine what the starting weight should be for any exercise. Anybody can help?


    1. There is no magic formula for this. It is trial and error. The goal is to use a weight that, if you are truly adhering to the protocol and giving maximal effort (meaning you can turn off your head that says “STOP! This is uncomfortable!”), you will become exhausted and unable to move the weight after 2-3 minutes. For example if you are doing a seated row, you will literally not be able to move the handles closer to you, and the weight will start to SLOWLY lower as you can no longer generate enough force to counteract it. If you know your max weights using a standard speed protocol, then use that as a gauge and start with less weight than that—you can’t lift as much when lifting slowly and in proper form. Anyone can bounce a barbell off their chest at high speed.

      1. I had to stop the HIT protocol. I kept hurting parts of my body, apparently by not using the right technique — wrist and forearm sprains, abdominal sprains, neck sprains. I need a trainer.

      2. Thank you very much for the reply. I really appreciate.

        The thing is i’m mostly used to bodyweight exercise so I’m not really good with numbers. I guess I’ll just eyeball it and see how it goes from there.

  103. I just wanted to give thanks for this guest post. I first read it about four months ago, and was intrigued enough to buy the book (and start looking at other H.I.T. information).

    I’ve been following a Primal/Paleo lifestyle for nearly two years now and although my health had improved, it hadn’t improved to the degree that I’d hoped, and I had not really lost any weight after the first few months.

    After about three months since starting a weekly H.I.T. workout consisting primarily of five compound exercises and the occasional isolation movement, I am extremely happy to say that I’ve experienced some pretty astounding body recomposition.

    I’m stronger than I’ve been in more than a decade, have noticeably more energy, better moods and less anxiety, and look better than I have in years!

    Thanks to Mark for posting this article and helping me to improve my health, well-being, and overall quality of life!

  104. If this method doesn’t track reps, then how do you track progress? As I recall, machine plates increment 10 or 15 lbs at a time. With free weights, you can increase as little as 5 lbs. So do you just suddenly increase 15 lbs one day? Is there an app to track progress for this kind of workout?

    1. You can track reps, if you are able. Personally, I cannot because of the concentration utilized for the HIT protocol itself. If you are doing it alone, use a stop watch. Some exercises you can start the watch immediately as you begin contraction, others you’ll need to subtract 5 or so seconds (try to count this) from the end time to get into position – such as for the arm based movements. As long as you keep your cadence fairly consistent, you could then calculate your reps from your time under load (TUL). 5 lb. increments are adequate to apply once you achieve your target TUL with a given weight. 10 or 15 would be a lot so ideally some of those machines without 5lb increments would have some sort of an add weight of about 5 lbs to set on top of the stack, and having 2.5 lb. plates for bar/dumbbells.

      I’m thinking for options with only 10lb increments, is to go to the high end of TUL (more than I would normally keep the same weight at), then go up 10lbs. and would expect a larger decrease in TUL at the next workout, but shouldn’t be too low.

  105. Regarding the no equipment 12min workout- Chin ups, pushups, squat & static lateral raise, is there any videos/ diagrams showing these in more detail?

  106. I am a 58 year old retired ARMY LTC. I have been going to the gym off/on since college. Much of my 20s and early 30s was spent as a gym rat. For the last 10 years or so my gym routine had become very intermittent. I have tried P90x, Insanity,Tabata all with minimal results. I read about Body by Science on Amazon and decided to give it a try. I am an Emergency Nurse by training so I really enjoyed and appreciated the scientific basis of Dr McGuff’s approach. I have been doing the Big Five exercise routine once every 7 days for about 7 weeks and the results have been impressive. My row has increased from 160lbs to 230lbs, My Chest Press has increased from 165lbs to 200lbs, my military press has increased from 160lbs to 200lbs. My lat pulldowns has oncreased from 135lbs to 170lbs and my leg press from 280lbs to 520lbs. I follow a a low carb diet and have dropped 9 lbs. So regardless whatever its detractors say – The program works for me.

  107. If you’re timing your workouts and keeping meticulous records as you should be, there’s no better way to accomplish that than to use HIT Log Pro, it’s an iphone app. (I’m not sure if it’s available on other platforms yet) All you have to do is touch start to begin the movement and then touch anywhere on the screen when you have completed the movement and then record your weight and number of reps. It performs a calculation and will graphically represent the amount of work you’ve accomplished. There’s no guessing or speculating if you got stronger since the last session, it’s plotted out graphically. If you didn’t perform more work, you need to change something so that you’ll get stronger on your next workout. It’s that simple. You’re supposed to make gains, if you don’t you’re doing something inconsistent with positive results and something needs to be changed.

  108. This is gold, especially when u live in a country where this protocol is not even known (portugal!).
    I have a doubt: none of these exercises seem to be focused on your abs, am i wrong? If so, which exercise works your abs? Or what exercise would be best to work out abs with a “bodybyscience” philosophy?