- I didn’t follow the program exactly as written, more details in my review
- I’m a subscriber and follower of the Barbell Medicine (BBM) team.
- I paid for the template (US$44.99)
This will be part one out of a two part series of my review of the 7WGHT, as this will review my first iteration of the template. I completed this template during a bulking phase. My second review of 7WGHT will be using the template during a cutting phase. The template is marketed as being a good template for doing either, as it features high volumes for training, which aids in either adding new muscle or preserving existing muscle, whilst strength development is not the single goal of the program. The structure of the template should signal the body to enter a state of hypertrophy.
Obviously, this is a sample size of one and anecdotal evidence with no control variables whatsoever and an opinion of somebody who, some would say has no scientific or medical background. So, this is really just an opinion about how the template worked for me and how I liked the structure of the program. Long story short, almost any well constructed template will provide results and this one is no different. The biggest factor in determining results of a program will be whether or not the user adheres to it and puts in the required effort (maximum).
I had to cut the program one week short due to travel conflicts, so really, it was a 6 week hypertrophy template. An old shoulder injury also started to cause issues towards the later half of the program, so I had to decrease volume and intensity for most of my upper body exercises. This affected my final results, however, obviously this is not indicative of the program.
Once you purchase the program, you receive an email containing a link to download an Excel spreadsheet, this is the program. The spreadsheet itself is quite comprehensive, with tabs that introduce & outline the program, links to instructional videos on YouTube, as well as a mini-FAQ section that explains certain things about the program. A great couple of features are the weekly training tabs that allow you to enter in the weights used for each exercise for each day, there is a weekly mini-analysis of your volumes, tonnages, intensities & fatigue. There is also an overall progression tab, which charts progress and I will show some snippets of further down.
I think there are some issues with opening the Excel file in Google Sheets, as there were some errors in the formulas of the spreadsheet leading to incorrect data points used in the graphs, (but this may also be user error, I may have inadvertently changed something). I do not like to edit the original file and simply make copies of the spreadsheet that I will edit as needed. Google Sheets also performs some spreadsheet magic in order to make the file compatible with the online platform.
A minor negative with the spreadsheet formatting is a matter of personal preference. I prefer to use a notebook and physical paper sheets during training, the spreadsheet is formatted for use on a screen and doesn’t lend well to printing. I had to create my own custom sheet with an overview of each day, split into weeks that would work well for printing out. This isn’t really a problem with the program, more a user interface experience, since it is a spreadsheet template that is formatted for use on a computer.
The two metrics I will use to judge results are:
– Did I gain weight?
– Did I gain strength?
The weight gain is more of a result of my nutritional choices and I dare say, I excelled at the eating component of the endeavor. Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly plan this review too well ahead of time, as I didn’t take any measurements of my body parts before I started the program, nor did I take any before photos.
My only metrics for changes in body composition used a cheap ‘smart scale‘, which tracks bodyweight, body fat %, water weight as well as lean muscle mass. I am not using the absolute figures of the smart scale, since it is an inherently inaccurate measurement device. I like to compare the results as relative to each other and track changes in numbers. Since I am using the same scale the numbers although inaccurate, should be consistent measurements, which should allow analysis of the changes between the numbers as an indicator of progress.
Weight gain & body composition
Over the course of the six weeks my body weight went from 204lbs (92.5kgs) to 212lbs (96kgs). My measured body fat levels increased 19% to 20% over the same time period. (To clarify, the scale is not an accurate body fat measurement device, using the electrical impedance to determine BF%. However, I am more interested with the 1% change, rather than the absolute values). I would argue that my weight was heavily influenced more by my nutritional plan over the six weeks, rather than the 7WGHT working miracles (calories in > calories out). I did experience an 8lb increase in weight with only a 1% change in body fat levels. Which I think was a solid result.
My increased caloric intake over the six weeks was a huge factor in the weight gain, however, the 7WGHT aided in my body’s ability to store more muscle than fat. In my opinion, combining a caloric surplus with this template produced some great results. Without any accurate measurement devices, I’ll conclude that I gained weight, some of this gain in weight could be attributed to an increase in muscle size.
Weights lifted and estimated 1RM
The following screenshots are pulled from the analysis section of the spreadsheet. Keep in mind I did not complete the 7th week, which is shown by the graph going back to zero. I will also include my working 1 rep max for each lift that I had before starting the 7WGHT, these were the weights I used in the last week of the Barbell Medicine 12 Week Strength Template. This is the other metric I used to assess the benefits from the template. If I experienced an increase in body weight and also experienced an increase in weights lifted, I would argue that those two factors combine to create a positive outcome.
Previous working 1 RM: 455 lb / 206 kg
Week 1 est. 1 RM: 403 lb / 183 kg
Week 6 est. 1 RM: 459 lb / 208 kg
Week 1. 6 reps @8: 315 lb / 143 kg
Week 6. 6 reps @8: 375 lb / 170 kg
My shoulders, hips and knees held up okay with the higher volume specified in the program. With a four pound increase in my estimated squat over my actual one rep squat, it will be interesting to see my real world performance during my next strength phase. But my results clearly show an increase in my working 6 rep weight used over the 6 weeks.
Previous working 1 RM: 245 lb / 111 kg
Week 1 est. 1 RM: 288 lb / 131 kg
Week 6 est. 1 RM: 281 lb / 127 kg (peak week 4 300 lb / 136 kg)
Week 1. 6 reps @8: 225 lb / 102 kg
Week 6. 6 reps @8: 225 lb / 102 kg
My shoulders have caused me issues for the longest time. I had addressed it during my strength phase and changed my hand placement for both the squat and the bench press, which resulted in almost no shoulder pain. Some discomfort during lifting surfaced again during the last half of the template which meant that I had to stop pushing heavy weights on the bench, overhead press and other upper body accessory movements.
I am happy to see that my shoulders were able to keep up with repping 225lbs with no issues. As well as showing an upward trend before I experienced shoulder issues (I am still chasing down that 315lb bench press).
Previous working 1 RM: 480 lb / 218 kg
Week 1 est. 1 RM: 403 lb / 183 kg
Week 6 est. 1 RM: 491 lb / 223 kg
Week 1. 6 reps @8: 315 lb / 143 kg
Week 6. 6 reps @8: : 405 lb / 184 kg
Similar to my squat results, I am happy with my increase in both estimated 1 rm being higher than my previous actual 1 rep max. As well as seeing an increase in working weights. This would be the first time I have ever been able to rep out 405lbs on the deadlift.
Previous working 1 RM: 185 lb / 84 kg
Week 1 est. 1 RM: 186 lb / 84 kg
Week 6 est. 1 RM: 183 lb / 83k kg (week 5 peak 197 lb / 89 kg)
Week 1. 6 reps @8:: 145 lb / 66 kg
Week 6. 6 reps @8: 135 lb / 61 kg (week 5 155 lb / 70 kg)
Just like with the bench press, I had to back off the weight progression due to the shoulder issues. Again the results weren’t great, but that wasn’t the fault of the program. At least the first half of the program showed an upward trend, which I can build upon for the next strength phase.
The program itself is quite straightforward and not overly complex. There is a lot of volume and I found most days taking two hours to complete, the shorter days are the days that don’t include the competition movement variants, as less rest between sets was needed. When time was extremely limited I cut out the last exercise of the day, which was always an accessory movement.
I found the accessory lifts to add enough variety for enjoyment over the course of six weeks. The program is geared heavily for those interested in powerlifting, with all of the accessory movements being a variant of the squat, bench, deadlift and overhead press. For example, stiff leg deadlifts, front squat, high bar squat, touch bench, feet up bench etc. The only isolation movements were for the curls and extensions for arm day. I also opted for these movements since I didn’t have special equipment (the extra options options would have included heavy dumbbells, Safety Squat Barbells, belt squat machine or a leg press machine).
The program is very utilitarian in this regard, all the movements served to build muscle that would drive the three (four) big lifts; squat, bench, deadlift & overhead press. There are no farmer carries, single arm or single leg movements, kettlebells, maces, dips, jumping or throwing of any kind. This may be a huge factor for some, with regard to compliance with the program. I can see how some would view the program as boring, since it’s the same movement patterns repeated for seven weeks.
The utilitarian aspect of the template makes it perfect for those that like to keep things simple and also those with limited access to equipment.
I was able to complete the template with a very simple garage gym set up with very little specialized equipment. The template offers some variety in movements for the accessory exercises. Some of the optional equipment needed would be incline bench, heavy dumbbells, safety squat barbell, belt squat or leg press. However, I completed the template without the need of anything other than a squat rack, flat bench, barbell and a bunch of weight plates.
I never felt like I was lacking any development from not having access to specialized equipment. I have since acquired an SS Yoke barbell from EliteFTS, so my second running of the template will have that extra movement added. For those with access to only a commercial gym, you won’t have a problem completing the template. The only issue you will potentially run into is the amount of time spent with a squat rack. Towards the end of the template I was completing around 5-6 working sets of squats, which ranged from 45-60 minutes. In some commercial gym settings, I would imagine this would be hard to accomplish during peak times.
As far as lifting accessories go, a good belt, a pair of knee wraps/sleeves and wrist wraps and lifting straps were all I needed to complete the program. The program doesn’t require or prescribe weighted pullups or dips of any kind.
I’m unsure if it was part of the intention behind the program, but it seems perfect for a garage/home gym owner to complete due to its lack of highly specialized equipment; no seated cable rows, pec decks, cable flies, preacher curls etc. The only optional extras are the leg press, belt squat and a safety squat barbell. For those that have a limited budget garage gym setup, the 7WGHT is perfect.
This is my biggest dislike of the program. The purpose of Myo-Reps are to activate the maximal amount of muscle fibre and maintain this over a sustained period of time. This should drive up a lot of volume and not leave any gains on the table. The rep scheme for the accessory movements is not my favorite rep structure.
The myo-rep scheme is performed first with an ‘Activation set’, where you choose a weight which you can perform for 11-15 reps at an RPE of 8. After which you take five breathes/10 second break and complete 3-5 reps. Repeat this until you can’t complete the same number of reps from the preceding set. E.g., you are able to hit 5 reps in the set after activation, the set in which you can only perform 4, you have completed the myo rep sets.
I never really felt like I got a handle on how to choose the weights needed to make this rep scheme effective. Maybe due to a conditioning issue or a lack of GPP endurance, whatever weight I would use for the activation set of 11-15, was not heavy enough for the proceeding myo reps. As I could complete the five reps relatively easy and more often than not, I would end the set, not because I was failing the reps, but because I was at set 10+. For my own experience, there was too big of a rep gap between the activation set of 11-15 and the working sets of 3-5 reps.
This was a nice addition and appealled to the old bodybuilder in me and allowed me to do some cardio and get arm days in. Over the course of seven weeks, the frequency and volume increase for all exercises prescribed. Ramping up from four sets each week, up to eight sets split up over two different days. This added some fun to the template and I was able to get an arm pump which I haven’t had in a while.
The cardio section of the template also ramps in volume as the weeks progress. And what starts with a 20 minutes of steady state, ends with some interval training, in addition to 35 minutes of steady state. I found over the course of the seven weeks, the cardio did get easier and I found myself trending upwards of distance rowed and calories burned given the same time limits.
I think this is a great program for people looking to insert a hypertrophy phase to their training plan. Tailored more for the powerlifting focused athlete, the movements are simple and prime the body for a strength phase. It increases both work capacity and drives up intensity and volumes towards the end of the program, which leads perfectly into a deload week before a new strength phase of training begins.
Reflecting back on the program, I think I could have taken a more structured approach at the start with using the calculators to use weights that reflected more closely to my actual one rep maxes, rather than starting off lighter than usual and progressing back upwards (like a two steps forward, one step back scenario). I could have possibly experienced more impressive results, if I had pushed myself harder. However, it does show that the program works even when executed with a less scientific and structured approach.
If you’re looking for a solid template with good principles, written by a great team, then the 7WGHT is a great choice. I think you will see some solid results, especially when coupled with a sound nutritional plan.
Have you used any of the Barbell Medicine templates/programming? Let me know how it went in the comments below!