Bigger Faster Stronger: Put to the Test

by: Josh Bryant

The closest we have to Dirk pictures.

Everyone knew of Dirk, but they also had the sense to keep their distance and avoid getting to know him well.

Dirk was a towering presence at bodybuilding shows. He would strut around, making the other competitors on stage feel small, weak, and emasculated. 

Always in his trusty lumberjack flannel, he was king at the fitness expos. 

People would whisper, “Look at him! He’s so massive, he should try a powerlifting meet!” But Dirk, being the hard-headed son of a buck he was, refused to taper his training volume to peak for such an event.  In his own words, he was a work horse not a show pony.

Now, let me tell you, the personal trainers despised Dirk. They couldn’t stand him because he knew more than they did, and many of their female clients couldn’t help but fawn over him. Dirk had this strange power to make hearts flutter and weights tremble. It was as if he was a lifting demigod, inspiring both awe and envy wherever he went.

The topless dancers at the gym adored Dirk. They would try to catch his attention, hoping for just a moment of his time. But Dirk, being focused and single-minded, had no interest in their flirtatious antics. He had one purpose at the gym, and that was to train. No distractions, no frilly entanglements. He was a man on a mission, and that mission was to be cock strong and sculpt his body into a walking monument of muscle.

Dirk was fueled by an unyielding determination and a relentless passion for iron. He was the living embodiment of the phrase “no pain, no gain.” 

So, there I was, back in my high school days, training with the BFS system, Dirk found out and told me whole system is hogwash, a freakin’ circle jerk (hence why I use the term to this day)! 

According to him, BFS was just a clever scheme to make some moolah and stroke the egos of high school coaches who wanted to feel important. 

But wait, there’s more! Dirk, called BFS a complete cookie cutter bullshit! When asked, “Why?” His response was everyone and their grandma were doing the same damn thing, year-round. Talk about monotonous training routines! It was like a never-ending Groundhog Day, where we all had to follow the exact same damn script.

As much as we laughed at his crude remarks, deep down, we couldn’t help but wonder if there was some truth to what he said. Maybe, just maybe, we needed to shake things up and break free from the BFS cookie-cutter madness. 25 + years later, let’s dig in and put BFS to the test of the Seven Grandaddy Laws.

Bigger Faster Stronger (BFS)

Bigger Faster Stronger (BFS) workouts are designed for athletes, set up in four-week waves/cycles. Workouts are thrice weekly off-season; in-season training frequency is reduced to twice a week.  Athletes are trying to break personal records year-round, including in-season with the logic of, “Why train to be weak?” boldly stated on the BFS Web site.

The BFS program consists of six core lifts that they believe are “specifically for athletes to enable them to get stronger, run faster, jump higher and farther, increase flexibility, endurance and agility, be less prone to injury and, finally, to WIN! The six core lifts in the BFS program are the Parallel Squat, Bench Press, Hex Bar Deadlift, Box Squat, Towel Bench Press and the Power Clean.”

Off-Season days are set up:

Monday-Box Squat/Towel Bench Press

Wednesday-Power Clean/Hex Bar Deadlift

Friday-Parallel Squat/Bench Press

All workouts start with an agility dot drill, jumping from dot to do to warm up the muscles and activate (Which I personally love).  Next, come two core lifts; all workouts are full body, core lifts are the same for every sport. Finally, the workout consists of auxiliary exercises to supplements the core lifts, often used to for more “sport specific” movements or to strengthen an area that is injured frequently within a sport; a football player would have neck work as an auxiliary.

The rep cycles in season are:

 Week 1-3×3

Week 2- 5×5

Week 3- 5-4-3-2-1 

Week 4- 10-8-6 or 4-4-2 for the power clean and Hex bar deadlift. 

You will hit each repetition cycle once a month, with a fairly low starting point. The idea is continually progress through the year by taking small jumps.  Some coaches give athletes the freedom to AMRAP on the last set.

BFS has been very successful with a number of high school programs.  Far from perfect, the system is designed to get entire teams under very little supervision through a workout in 45 minutes.  Therefore, it would possible to adhere to the Principle of Individual Differences.

BFS has some success because the progressive overload is in manageable increments. Gains can be further expedited by encouraging athletes to perform reps in Compensatory Acceleration Training (max force) and going for rep records on the last set–assuming this doesn’t fly in the face of technical proficiency.

BFS does a good job of building a foundation with core lifts and focusing on sport-specific auxiliary lifts. With high school athletes, they have struck a good balance.

The negatives some coaches report are box squats. BFS founder, Dr. Greg Shepard, was a member of the original Westside Barbell club with Bill “Peanuts” West and George Frenn, who pioneered box squats as a training technique.  Box squats can be great for building starting strength with a proper pause on the box and encouragement for athletes to sit back and build the posterior chain (back side of the body).

Unfortunately, most high school students, in a desire to lift more, forego any sort of pause and lose potential box squat benefits and, generally, coaches without a serious lifting background don’t emphasize sitting back.

High school students rarely have mediocre technique in the power clean, usually it is awful. With one coach to 50+ football players, it seems highly unlikely technically challenging Olympic lifts make a lot of sense.

Recovery is the other issue.  By box squatting Monday (to an above parallel box), essentially  an overload, then hex bar deadlifts Wednesday with power cleans and full squats Friday, all using rep record poundages, the potential for overtraining is there, particularly with the lower back.    

PrincipleDoes BFS Obey
Principle of Individual DifferencesNo
Principle of OvercompensationYes
Principle of OverloadYes
SAID PrinciplePossible
USE/Disuse PrincipleYes
The Specificity PrinciplePossible
GAS PrincipleNo

Because BFS prescribes the same set/rep/exercise scheme for everyone, it violates the Principle of Individual Differences. Continually piling weight on the bar is a good thing, but there needs to be periods of lower intensity, violating the GAS Principle.

Final Thoughts

Dirk was a bit harsh making BFS seem as useless as tits on a bullfrog, conversed to our coaches that hailed the program as a messianic savior for strength salvation.  BFS had some great components, it was not the Ritz Carlton of strength but sure as hell was not the meth head motel in South Arkansas off of highway 82, either.

Try one of Josh’s Programs HERE.