I remember first purchasing the book, “Big Beyond Belief” when my weightlifting journey began over 20 years ago. I saw an ad for it in a bodybuilding mag and was captivated by the article style marketing copy that is industry standard now, but so rare back then.
This was still pre-internet days so I had to pick up the rotary-dial phone and speak to the distributor selling the book. He asked me what program I was currently using and I told him Power Factor Training. He dismissively laughed saying it was a load of shit and that this new system would change my training forever.
When I finally received the book I was shocked. Body-parts trained 3 times a week with multiple sets? Seemingly insane levels of volume with no time off between workouts? Twice a day training sessions?? What kind of sick fucking joke had I blown my 60 bucks on, I wondered?
Back in the early 90s, I was just another fan brainwashed by the low volume rhetoric of the time. HIT was the flavour of the era and everyone was an “overtraining hardgainer”. Mentzer was still alive and vehemently preaching his one-set every 10 days gospel in numerous magazine articles. Some British dude name Yates was ushering in a new era of never-before seen mass via his “one-set to failure, tear every muscle off the bone” system. Stuart McRobert was influencing a generation with his Hardgainer articles and Brawn books advocating twice a week training least you end up a crippled, screaming, anemic mess courtesy of the overtraining demons.
The Unholy HIT Trinity – Mentzer, Yates and to this day, the still unverifiable, Stuart McRobert.
So with that ingrained fucking nonsense as my training reference point I flinchingly tried the 4 day per week BBB program and found that it killed me because:
- I believed it would.
- I hadn’t developed the work capacity to handle that kind of frequency.
- I was also killing myself on every set as per HIT guidelines which was literally set the stage for failure.
- I was a pussy.
After 2-3 weeks I was done. I put the book away and never used it again until now.
In retrospect, the Big Beyond Belief manual was spot on why HIT and any number of training systems don’t work for an appreciable amount of time beyond the initial first weeks of success”
“Unfortunately, back in the 1980s overtraining was overdone. It became a rallying cry for a lot of misled bodybuilders. Some bodybuilding gurus began claiming that everyone was overtraining and urged them to cut back on volume. Sure enough, when they cut back they experienced big gains for a short while, but the growth did not last.”
Alternatively, training balls out with mad volume like many guys were doing in the 80s with their twice a day, 2 hour workouts were also short-circuiting their progress. Without a back-off strategy either in the form of time off, a deload or modulation in volume, the trainee beats themselves into the ground with little return on their effort.
Big Beyond Belief provides an alternative system aimed at keeping the trainee in the “optimal training zone”. It’s principles are based on the “Bulgarian Periodisation models which compressed a year of normal periodised training into a week comprising an endurance cycle, a strength cycle and a power cycle.”
BBB uses a principle called Hyperacceleration which ramps up the training stress to the body’s adaptive limit and then switches to a Hyperadaptive phase in which training stress is suddenly reduced allowing the body to play adaptive catchup and compensate by adding muscle growth.
“Hyperacceleration (ramping phase) and hyperadaptation (super-growth phase) are keys to growth for the bodybuilder. Many bodybuilders have inadvertently experienced the tremendous benefits to be gained by using these concepts such as switching from a high-volume training program to high-intensity/low-sets program, but few have understood them well enough to use them to achieve growth over a long period.”
I think everyone has noticed similar patterns of success in their own training journeys. You train balls to the wall for a long time and then suddenly sickness or injury forces a rest and magically your body grows during the off period. Poliquin used to call this block manipulation of volume and intensity, accumulation and intensification phases. It’s also similar to the previous success I experienced when alternating high volume HST protocols with lower volume/frequency 5-3-1 blocks.
The book recommends the 6 day per week frequency for maximum results, so that’s the template that I’ve chosen for my own training. There are also options for a 4 day a week and a daily double split approach. The double split option was VERY tempting, but the feedback from others I’ve read about on forums say it sucks, so I use feeder workouts in the morning instead.
As of writing this I’m up to Week 4, which is the first Hyperadaptation phase whereby the training volume is suddenly decreased from the previous three week ramps.
So why did I choose system when I’ve had success with HST training for a while? As I mentioned before in the Training Strategy Blog, I don’t have time for the every-other-week volume deloads and more than that, I simply needed the mental stimulation associated with doing something different to really galvanise my efforts over these remaining few months.
Although It’s very similar in its approach to HST training in terms of volume and frequency, BBB compresses the 6 week HST block into one week without the back-off in intensity.
The way I structured this training for my own purposes is shown below in an example Week 1 below:
Monday and Tuesday I will stick to straight sets using compound movements. I go as heavy as I can for 15 reps because I feel it’s a safe rep-range for those movements without risking injury.
Wednesday and Thursday use mid-rep ranges and I use these days to add some exercise variety to the training week. I’ll choose one or two new movements that hit the muscles at different angles to shock things up a little bit.
Friday and Saturday are my lower-rep power days and I’ll go as heavy as I can on machine movements and add in things like drop sets and partials to put the muscle under stress. Because I’m primarily using machines, I feel safer in really pushing things.
So far, things have been going well and I can safely say that I’m able to maintain strength on this cut without a single rep drop in performance and (knock on wood) no injuries. Contrast this to the Doggcrap Program I used a month ago and after 30 days I totally fucked my brachialis which made lifting anything heavier than a 20lb dumbbell an exercise in extreme pain that only taking Celebrex has managed to reduce.
Shots taken first thing in the morning
The full body post workout pump
That’s the meat and potatoes of my Big Beyond Belief system. The book also details several more levels of training which are beyond the scope of this blog at the present time.
The manual also discusses the topics of nutrition and supplementation which can be quite helpful in getting a handle on two different approaches to dieting:
- Traditional High Carb, Low Fat, Moderate Protein approach which is suggested for mass gain.
- A Low Carb, High Fat approach that is recommended for fat loss.
In addition to training templates, the authors mention some recovery techniques which are useful along with the application of active recovery training sessions (aka feeder workouts) that were quite revolutionary for that time.
So, my next blog will discuss my approach to feeder workouts.