A few years ago, as I usually do every few months, I was looking to change my training around and challenge my body by giving it something new.
I saw a lot of positive comments online about world-renowned strength and conditioning coach Joe Defranco, owner of De Franco’s gym in East Rutherford New Jersey.
Joe De Franco’s built up a range of clients that vary from NFL players, UFC fighters, high school athletes and professional wrestlers, to name just a few.
To say he knows what he’s talking about is an understatement, he’s all business but comes across as an approachable, classy guy too so I was sold!
The more research I did of de franco online, the more I wanted to try out his approach and material, so I purchased one of his programs online for $27 called Built Like a Badass and got started!
This 12-week program was designed for weekend warriors, average Joe’s and former athletes who want to possess the strength, conditioning and muscularity of a college or professional athlete!
Table of Contents
Who Should Use Built Like A Badass?
Joe DeFranco created this as a 12-week blueprint to a muscular, athletic physique and it certainly delivers on that promise!
Defranco’s built like a badass program was created for, as he puts it, former athletes, weekend warriors, business executives and average Joe’s that still want to train hard and look athletic.
It’s not a bodybuilding specific program where you put on slabs of muscle but can’t operate outside of the weight room!
Here’s the deal
You will get stronger, burn body fat, and see improvements in physical appearance. This program is about being well-rounded.
If you’re a powerlifter and you only concerned with getting stronger on the Bench, Overhead Press, Squat and Deadlift, then this program is not for you.
If you’re a bodybuilder and your sole interest is a physical appearance at the cost of improved strength and functionality, then this blueprint is not for you.
If you’re someone that wants a combination of the two above and more, i.e. the strength, power, muscularity, athleticism and conditioning of a competitive athlete, then Built Like A Badass is a program for you!
You’ll have your “Go!” to add to your “Show!”
The main reason I bought it was to get a taste of Joe Defranco’s training methods!
His promise through this program is that you’ll be athletic as well as muscular.
I want to look good but not at the expense of performance, not only did I get this training three times a week for 12 weeks, but I also learned a tonne of new drills and exercises.
I discovered lots of great finishers which we’ll talk about in a minute that you can incorporate at the end of any workout to add new life to the routine by giving it that extra kick!
It was a phenomenal experience all round!
What You Should Know
As mentioned previously, the program is 12 weeks long, broken down into three workouts a week, Days 1 and 3 being Upper Body and Day 2 Lower Body.
Each workout is maximum intensity; hence only three training sessions a week and then there are two deload weeks on week 5 and 10.
I wouldn’t call these deload weeks active recovery, but they’re less intense than the other ten weeks for sure!
Each workout has three components. First, the Max-Effort Method next up is the Bodybuilding phase and finally the “Finishers” at the end of each day.
For the Max-Effort section at the beginning, you will be building strength using the big lifts which for Built Like A Badass will consist of the bench-press, then either the squat or deadlift(your choice) and chin-ups.
It would be best if you found your max lift for all of the “Big 3” before starting to get the most from the 12 weeks.
1. Max Effort Strength Training:
Max-Effort was my favourite part because I love lifting heavy and when you’re stronger, you feel better, and the increased neural drive into the muscles keep you going through the other component of the routine that follows!
Also, it makes sense doing it at the beginning for best results when you’ve got a full tank of gas, rather than in the middle or at the end.
My muscles got shocked by the variety of exercises in this section.
The tension was created with the Max-Effort method and then for hypertrophy in part 2, bodybuilding techniques including supersets, drop-sets, rest-pause, timed set, eccentrics and “total rep goals” were all incorporated!
Reps are high in this section, but if you feel you’re not getting enough of a “Pump” so to speak then lower them slightly (1-2 Reps) and increase resistance.
I ended up really liking the finishers!
They were so much fun and usually changed every 2-4 weeks.
These high-intensity movements at the end were a great way to burn fat, keep things fresh and build muscular endurance.
They weren’t dull either; there was a lot of variations, and Joe designed the blueprint so that each time you would repeat a finisher, it was more intense than the previous one!
You will perform barbell training, bodyweight training, Tabata, one mile runs etc. it’s all in there!
Ok, moving on!
My First Impressions
After downloading and printing it off, It’s only 22 pages, short and to the point, I got to work!
I love the fact that after warming up using Joe’s Simple 6 for the upper body, or Limber 11 for the lower body I was able to then crack into the workouts without spending too much time assembling bands, chains etc. and this saved a lot of time.
Joe keeps it simple but extremely useful. He understands most people doing the program aren’t training for the Olympics or an NFL Draft; they do, however, want to get in the best shape possible!
Don’t get me wrong; I love specialised equipment, but not all gyms have a lot of the extras, primarily commercial gyms.
If you have dumbbells, barbells, a small stretching area for bodyweight exercises and a pull-up bar, then you’re good to go!
I was familiar with almost all of the exercises.
Still, if there were any lesser-known movements I was unsure of, I could click on the links from the online pdf, go straight to YouTube, check them out, understand them, then be fully prepared for the next workout day.
The Use Phase
Thinking back on day 1 Upper-Body, it was a beauty!
I did the bench press first as my big lift for that day, after warming up with simple 6, then some light sets using the barbell only, then gradually increasing the weight before using the work weight for eight then six then four reps while upping the resistance felt good!
It makes sense but always go after strong first! If this routine were sequenced any other way, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective!
So I got that neural drive flowing through the upper body, next up was the bodybuilding sequence, working chest again with dumbbells, then super setting back and triceps, then super setting traps and shoulders which felt like the icing on the cake after the big lift!
I finished off with a barbell complex as a finisher for that day, the end of it spent me! (especially my forearms) The complex was two sets for ten reps and for the second round I was using the barbell only!
I really had to push myself because I was getting attacked from all angles, but I loved it and knew I was doing my body a service by the end!
Day one was in the bag and for $27, never mind the next 35 workouts it was money well spent!
I also understood after the first workout why this 12-week program is only three workout days a week. I go all out when I train, as everyone that joins a gym should, and I knew my body would need to recover before day 2, so I could go all-out 100% again!
One thing I would recommend is that if your training in the gym when it’s busy and the other member took all of the bench presses, rather than hanging around waiting, use dumbbells instead!
I would also say if you have access to kettlebells and only if you know how to use them properly, then you can do a KB Complex instead of a DB Complex for Day one’s workouts from weeks 6-8!
Barbell push-ups descending on weeks 8,9 and 11 were great, but I felt after a while that there was a bit of overkill especially going from 20, then, 19, 18, 17 etc. right down to one.
I felt I would have gotten more out of something else, but then that just me and how my body responds, it’s different for everyone.
Other than those push-ups, and probably because my body is numb to them after doing them for years, I have zero complaints and lots of fond memories!
I bought the product with the promise of improving my physique athletically, which it did but, I got so much more!
What improved was my mental strength to be able to push through any physical challenges put in front of me, and this improved my confidence and belief in myself big time!
I coasted through a Hell and Back race I did around the end of the 36 workouts without training for it, and I feel that’s because of doing Built Like A Badass!
The adaptability I got from doing this program, it’s so dynamic where you go from max lifts to bodybuilding to endurance activities has stayed with me ever since!
This experience is locked into me now, and it has helped me for every routine I’ve done since and you can’t put a price on that!
I remember before writing this review looking at some of the comments from the search forums online with people complaining that the program is overpriced for 22 pages at $47 or that it’s a bad program.
It now costs $29.95, so I must have got it at a discount at $27.
Only $47 from a world-renowned strength coach and you’re fitness is covered for three months, talk about a steal, but these people with that kind of attitude would still do nothing if it were 500 pages for $47.
Unfortunately for them, their attitude will always hold them back, and they miss out!
Built Like A Badass Rating: 4.5/5
I thought the program was phenomenal, super easy to follow, very enjoyable and so rewarding for all that I got after completion of week twelve!
The only drawback I felt some more coaching and maybe an instructional video library online of all of the exercises would have helped for complete novices.
I’ve learned training principles in college; if I didn’t learn them I would not have passed, so I had no choice, and I feel that with a bit more video instruction for anyone new to strength training that would get much more out of the exercises as they would have much better body awareness!