Program Review–Doggcrapp Training


This is a long time coming, but I wasn’t in a place to write about it until now, so here goes. Last year for almost the entire year I ran DC full time. I was coming back from an injury, and I decided that honestly, my biggest goal is not to get as strong as possible (at 39, I’m not going to set any records), but to put on as much lean mass as possible. I read up on DC, and while it sounded like a whole bunch of curl-bro non-sense, it has a large following and Dante (the inventor of the program) is HUH-YUGE. I figured I shouldn’t knock it until I tried it, so I endeavored to give it a full on try. In actuality, I ended up giving it three tries, but I’ll get to that later.

The basic layout of DC training that I used is a three day a week schedule where you hit specific body parts each day. For me, Monday was shoulders, triceps, and deadlifts, Wednesday was quads, hams, calves, and biceps, and Friday was chest and back.

In this schedule, you pick a single (preferably compound) exercise for each body part, and with the exception of squats and deads, perform three rest-pause sets with your work weight. For those of you unfamiliar with rest-pause training, the idea is that you knock out a single set to failure with your work weight, then rest 15-30 seconds, knock out a second set to failure, rest 15-30 seconds, and complete one last set to failure. Typically, you get ½ of the previous sets reps in each set after the first, so if you got 12 reps in the first set, you normally get 6 in the second and 3 in the third. The general idea is that muscular fatigue, indicated through failure, is the primary mechanism by which hypertrophy is impacted, so it makes sense to chase that as much as possible. By using rest-pause, you can do this very efficiently, time-wise, in opposition to the normal bodybuilder-style high volume approach that takes 2+ hours a day.

Progression occurs weekly, in a more or less linear fashion. You go in each day and try to get more reps than you did last week. Once you hit a prescribed number of total reps across all three sets, you increase the weight. If you can’t increase the weight or reps from last week,  you get once more try the next week. If you still can’t progress, then you swap that exercise out the next time you work that bodypart. So, if you were doing Pendlay rows and unable to progress, you might swap them out for standard barbell rows, t-bar rows, or even cable rows.

Diet-wise, Dante has a lot of rules. No calorie counting, no carbs after 6PM, lots of protein all the time, eat when you are hungry, etc. This is where my multiple runs come in, as I kept modifying my diet to try and make this work.

At first, I stuck with my typical leangains dieting, which I posted about here, but basically revolves around eating at a caloric surplus on lifting days and a caloric deficit on off days, with lots of protein on all days. Next, I tried a binge-purge kind of extreme intermittent fasting whereby I ate at maintenance on lifting days, ate nothing (literally nothing, 24-36 hour fasts) on non-lifting days, and binged (7,000 – 13,000 calories per day) on the weekends. Finally, I followed Dante’s recommendations to the T. No carbs after 6, eating when hungry, not counting calories (but still tracking, just not limiting), and so forth, including upping my protein intake to over half a KG per day (500-600 grams).

Supplement-wise, I made a number of changes throughout, but I ended up settling on BCAA’s and creatine during the workout, Vitamin D (4000 IU), Fish Oil, and a Multivitamin.

OK, now for my subjective review of the program. Overall, I really enjoyed it at first. Workouts were fast, and I kind of enjoy going to failure, so the idea of an efficient system based around going to failure really appealed to me. I also got stronger, though not significantly. However, as time went on, I began to get more and more burnt out. By the end of the year, I was completely fried, and making myself go into the gym each day was murder, even when on a serious caloric surplus.

Ultimately, I came away with the conclusion that going to failure while forcing yourself to improve every week is draining from an emotional perspective, which for me, was much more debilitating than if it had been physically taxing. On the physical side, however, I didn’t really have any problems, probably because the volume wasn’t high enough to stimulate growth, much less injure me.

My results, needless to say, were not good. Despite giving the system an entire year, despite trying every possible dietary combination, despite doing all of the ‘extreme stretching’ prescribed and the exact lifts he recommended, I not only didn’t get any bigger, I actually lost muscle while gaining fat. On Jan 22 of 2013 (the beginning of the program), I had a DEXA scan with the following results:

Body Weight: 225.4 lbs.

Lean Mass: 192.2 lbs.

Fat Mass: 33.2 lbs.

14.73% bodyfat

 

At this time, my lifts were:

Squat (low bar, no belt): 380×3

Deadlift (no belt): 405×5

Bench (TNG): 240×3

 

In January of this year, when I officially quit DC Training, I got another DEXA scan:

Body Weight: 240.6 lbs.

Lean Mass: 190.3 lbs.

Fat Mass: 50.3 lbs.

20.91% bodyfat

 

At this time, my lifts were:

Squat (low bar, no belt): 390×5

Deadlift (no belt): 445×5

Bench (TNG): 245×4

 

So in the end, I lost 2 pounds of muscle while gaining almost 20 pounds of fat only to have very mediocre improvements in my lifts.

My final analysis is that DC training definitely, positively, does not work for me. In fact, it really depressed me to have worked so hard, consistently, for a full year, only to actually move backwards. However, with time, distance, and switching to another program (and making progress!), I have managed to take away some important lessons from DC, which I will present here in no specific order:

  • Subjective intensity is a horrible arbiter of effectiveness. At best, it doesn’t mean anything and at worst, it’s harmful. Use Prilepin’s chart instead of subjective intensity to determine if a workout is going to be useful.
  • Diet has some impact in growth, but if the program doesn’t stimulate growth, changing what you are eating isn’t going to help.
  • Volume is important and necessary for growth.
  • You can get stronger while not gaining (or even losing) muscle.
  • There’s some wacky dieting techniques involving fasting that, shockingly, actually work. Fasting for 24, 36, or even 72 hours isn’t going to kill your metabolism or even sacrifice muscle, as long as you get the right nutrients in when you do eat.
  • Your metabolism will actually adjust pretty quickly to fasting in some ways. 24 hours into a fast, I will get SUPER cold. Similarly, a few hours into a binge, I will start sweating profusely and will generally need the rooms to be cooler. This happens consistently.
  • It’s very easy to waste a bunch of time accomplishing fuck-all when you are constantly changing the exercises you use.
  • Always have a way to measure progress. If you want strength, make sure you are getting stronger. If you want muscle mass, make sure you have a way of objectively measuring mass (DEXA, Bodpod, Dunk Tank). If you aren’t making the results you want, change something.
  • Just because something works for someone else does not mean it will work for you. For that matter, who’s to say it’s working for them?

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