Program Review: Bodybuilder Template for 5/3/1

After running Boring but Big for four cycles (16 weeks), I switched out to something to help the ol? ego: Jim?s old Bodybuilder Template for 5/3/1. This is probably the second most common done template for 5/3/1, so it makes sense I?d come here next. But I also decided I wanted to look good at the beach, so I did this program to focus a bit on aesthetic gains and let my strength take a slight back seat.

I did this template for three cycles (12 weeks) and am currently in the deload week of the final cycle.

Here?s how the numbers panned out:

OHP: 140 lbs ? 150 lbs

Squat: 380 lbs ? 410 lbs

Bench: 230 lbs ? 245 lbs

Deadlift: 405 lbs ? 440 lbs

Bodyweight: 165 lbs ? 171 lbs

Body fat: 12.8% ? 13.3%

What is the Body Building Template?

The Body Building Template focuses on hypertrophy from a bunch of lower weight, high rep exercises that are often more isolated rather than the big, complex powerlifting movements. The goal, from the name of the program, is to get bigger show muscles.

The result is much more of a ?bro-split? like program with powerlifting exercises at the start of each day. The routine went shoulders/biceps (OHP) day, back (deadlift) day, chest/triceps (bench press) day and (squat) leg day.

The one big change I did was take the as many as possible (AMAP) pushups out of the bench press day and replaced it with first set last (FSL) bench work. My bench needs the most work of all my lifts in my opinion, and I would rather add direct volume to that rather than indirectly work it with pushups. As a smaller change, I took out the Toe-to-bars on squat day and replaced it with 4×15 ab roller work. This is mostly because I?ve read that only four ab workouts are truly effective, ab roller being one of them, and toe-to-bar not so much. (The other three are hanging leg raises, hollow body holds and planks.)

On days off from the gym, I often did an ab routine with some yoga that was mostly hollow body holds, planks and various yoga I picked up from taking classes.

My Lifting Background Up to This Point

I started 5/3/1 in February of this year. I have been program lifting for 24 months. First six months of Stronglifts 5×5, then a year of Greyskull LP (during which I injured my back and spent months in recovery, losing a lot of deadlift and squat progress).

Before that, I had been on fuckarounditis for two years of varying intensity and absolutely no progression plan in an apartment building gym similar to a hotel level gym. I spent my 20s largely an out of shape obese guy after being a very athlete teenager.

During this template, I noticed my progress was very slowed, so I decided to both A) start taking a creatine supplement (5g a day) and B) bulking. I had planned on bulking in the Fall, but put aside my ego of being trim in order to become stronger. With the bulk, I ate more protein daily (at least 150 grams, up from 135 grams).

Impressions of the Program

I?m relatively new to isolation work, so after avoiding machines almost entirely for about two years, it was fun to try them out a bit and bring back some old, old memories of fucking around in high school on whatever equipment was available.

I liked the arm days a lot, it felt good mentally to go for all these vanity muscles, especially not one, but two types of curls on overhead press day. The toughest day, in my opinion, is day 2: deadlifts into back work. The good mornings even after doing them for months, still gave me hamstring DOMS. It definitely took me the longest to do that day, and burned the most calories as well. Leg day was a bit of a grind as well, but I feel like my squat problems are mostly mental at this point, my 1RM based on the AMAP sets were all over the place the whole three weeks I did this program.

I do think the demanding deadlift day left my legs a little weak feeling for squats. Running the deadlifts on Tuesday meant running squats on Friday, which didn?t feel like enough recovery time. But, as I mentioned above, my squats are largely a mental hurdle rather than a physical one in my opinion. There?s just something much more heavy feeling about squats once that third plate goes on each side that I assume is mostly mental.

My progress in general was not as good as under Boring But Big (BBB), but of course I am just lifting more in general and the gains should be slower. Still, if I hadn?t started the bulk and/or the creatine, the numbers would have been even worse. This program, is of course, not ideal for strength building, but vanity muscles, so it?s not the fault of the program I progressed so slowly. But I learned about myself; I learned I value getting stronger more than I value looking my absolute best. I?d rather have a slightly higher body fat percentage (even if my abs have largely gone into hiding and I have to use a notch bigger on my lifting belt) and keep gaining strength.

I am having a tough time deciding if the creatine is having any positive effects. For reference, I started the creatine a few weeks before bulking. I did not see the 2?5 lbs gain of weight that most guys say they experience once they get ?loaded? with creatine. And my lifts really didn?t start taking off until I started eating more. Eating more has a much more significant and immediate impact on lifts than creatine, so I may just didn?t give the creatine enough time to be impactful or it just did add a lot to a novice like myself.

Regardless, I don?t feel like I have that much more muscle on my body, so in addition to not being all that effective as a strength builder, I don?t feel like this program even worked for what it was supposed to do: give me those mirror gains.

Conclusions and Other Thoughts

This wasn?t a bad program, I liked the exercises themselves, but it wasn?t good either as it didn?t give me the type of gains I was looking for. I had to increased my diet by about 300 calories (and 15 grams of protein) a day before I started seeing true strength improvements and I don?t feel like my arms are any bigger for aesthetics than when I started. Even being able to squat 400 lbs, most of my friends just say I look fit, not strong, now.

But, it did teach me that I care more about my numbers than I do about my looks. And while the looks are a great, great side effect of all this work, the strength is what I really want. That lesson is worth three months of mild gains.

Overall: not recommended.

My next step is to do a Periodization Bible template based on Reddit user PohangThunder. I was debating doing a program I saw called Boring But Triumvirate, which combines Boring But Big with The Triumvirate, but I think I will save that for the upcoming cut after I finish bulking. In order to keep the muscle mass (besides increasing my protein from .8 gram/lb to 1.2 gram/lb), I will want a very intensive workout. Periodization Bible has been on my radar for a bit and I like Pohang?s final design on this because it focuses on arms a bit more, which, as I am constantly mentioning, is a weakpoint of mine.

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