Friday, 2 October 2009

Impromptu Strength Test - Has Body by Science Worked?

I went to the gym this morning just to spot my training partner, who wanted to see how his strength had been affected by our 4 months on Body by Science. He only really tested dumbbell bench press and chins, but said be felt stronger.

While there, I was unable to resist trying out a few of the old favourites myself:

Dumbbell Bench Press: 32 kilos per arm, controlled. Felt comfortable - could have done 5, as previously.

Raise-Assisted Handstand Push Up: 3 plates, one rep. Comfortable - could have done 3-5, as previously.

Chin Ups: did 3 - felt as easy as previously.

Hanging Leg Raises
: did 5 - felt rusty, but could have done 10 without too much trouble.

Basketball Rollouts: 1 - did feel a little weak in terms of maintaining core rigidity when outstretched.

Romanian Deadlift: did 2 easy reps at 70 kilos. Felt no heavier than I recall for that weight.

The verdict? If I am honest, I was no stronger. However, I was also no weaker.

Yet in terms of time spent doing strength workouts, the last 4 months have seen it slashed from 30-60 minutes a week average to 10-15 minutes.

I wonder whether after 4 months away from these exercises my 'pathways' will be pretty rusty. Perhaps if I returned to them regularly, there might be gains as I readjust. Could this mean in reality a marginal strength gain?

Also, I am still getting fully 'dialled in' to the BBS protocol. If my optimal rest period turns out to be 9 days or more, as my latest experimentation is testing, then I may start to see greater gains.

The only muscle group I am unsure about is abs. They may be weaker. I suspect the workout they get during pull downs is no match for the rollouts I did previously. I could add an abs component to my BBS workout or I could decide I am not too concerned. They seem to look OK.

I was pleasantly surprised that I felt no weaker on deadlift, in spite of my BBS exercises apparently not targeting the hamstrings; but I do think the leg press pretty much nails everything from the waist downwards: I can recall my hamstrings and calves feeling wrecked after a particularly savage 2 minute leg press.

My training partner and I are busting to get back to body weight exercises, circuits and throwing iron around like thugs. But I am determined to follow through the BBS process logically and hopefully establish how it works best for me. I can then go back to other exercises, knowing BBS is always an option, perhaps to break through plateaus or to save time if my life is too hectic for longer, more frequent gym sessions.


Jedidja said...

Interesting - the book does claim that the 12-minute workout is "as effective" as going 3 times a week for 30-60 minutes. However your observations seem to say that it is more of a maintenance cycle than growth.

I'm glad you're chronicling this, regardless of the results. I have tried BBS for a bit, and have gone back to 3x a week just because I really enjoy the endorphins I get from working out and they help keep me motivated. Only getting that once a week isn't enough right now :)

Looking forward to your continued posts on the subject..and all workout/food-related things for that matter :)

Bryce said...

I would say that you have more than maintained.

Movements like Romanian Deadlifts and Pressing movements definitely have a "groove" that deteriorates over time. I imagine if you were to practice your deadlift for a few weeks, you would quickly surpass your previous numbers.

I'd actually be pleased with these results.

Methuselah said...

Jedidja - the thing is, I was doing 2-3 lots of 30 minutes per week prior to BBS and not getting any stronger either - so in that sense BBS matches the normal approach in my case; but BBS claims that it is the antidote to that kind of stagnation - so it still has something to prove to me!

Bryce - thanks for the positive interpretation. You may well be right. I am looking forward to going back to some of the other exercises more regularly when I've done what I have to do on BBS, and finding out the truth.

Asclepius said...

I am watching this pretty closely as I am intrigued my the BBS approach.

The reason I don't follow BBS at the moment is that I want more from my workout - it is not just getting strong! There are other benefits to a workout including fun/play, stress release and just the great feeling of doing 'active stuff outdoors'.

I can't rule out using the BBS approach...but not just yet!

I'm looking forwards to your next update.

Methuselah said...

Thanks Asclepius - I'll be pleased if I can help you make a decision without needing to go through the same lengthy process.

For me the big thing it's highlighted is how systematic one has to be to truly gauge and make progress (once you've got beyond the beginner's plateau, which I passed about 7 years ago!) I guess that's why they call it 'Body by Science' (duh!). Without this framework (and the blogging to force me to be rigorous about monitoring) I'd have lost interest and moved on months ago.

I share your need for more 'fun' - at the moment this is being fulfilled with the swimming between sessions and the fell running. But I do miss the bodyweight stuff and dumbbell work!