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littlesimongeorge

5-3-1 Roundtable

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Soooo, dat dere 5-3-1 is most definitely the online flavour of the last year or so on strength/bodybuilding/strongman communities.

 

Vast majority of the feedback has been very positive, I've seen some crazy gains from various lifters on IS as well as other forums and one or two I know personally.

 

So I'm about to join the party to celebrate 4 years of training.

 

I only train twice a week so my program will be:

 

Day 1: Squat 5-3-1, Log Press 5-3-1, Deadlift  5x10 (may SLDL instead) + delt work

 

Day 2: Deadlift 5-3-1, Bench 5-3-1, Squat 5x10 (may pussy out  :D ) + arm work

 

A few wide grip pull ups will be performed every session.  Or perhaps dips one session, pull ups on the other.

 

So i'm interested to read of any disadvantages you may have encountered on your 5-3-1 quest.  Did you make any mistakes? There are a fair amount of 5-3-1 variations, which one did you choose and why? How many cycles have you done? Have you moved on from 5-3-1, if so why and how many cycles did you get through before stalling? Did you skip deload week for the first few cycles?

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This isn't relevant for you Simon but maybe newbs, like me, will seek out this thread when considering intermediate programming. 

 

I did 5/3/1 for 4-5 months, and skipped the deloads entirely though I had some life deloads for holidays etc. I can't remember precisely because I was using an app at that time to track my workouts. I believe Wendler sued the app's creator some months ago and the app subsequently disappeared from my phone so I lost some data. 

 

This is just my perspective and I know a lot of people on here who are much stronger than me have had great gains and in no way to do I mean to demean their progress or suggest I know better or anything like that. 

 

I personally didn't get great results although I acknowledge it's a great program for more advanced lifters. The reason I believe is because as an early intermediate when I started the program, I needed to drive up my 1rms more and find my true maxes. Any number I plugged into the 1rm calculator would've been arbitrary simply because of a lack of adaptation to 1rms. Back around Thanksgiving I emailed Paul Carter of LRB to ask a question about intermediate programming and he wrote:

 

It's more of you learning where your limits are and how to "feel" what is too heavy or not heavy enough.  I think intermediates need to learn how to play with this and how it "feels" before really doing hard programming.  

 

I think a lot of other authorities on lifting would agree with that. Maybe not. I switched in January to lifting 5-6 days focusing on 2 big lifts a day working up to a solid single and then backing off for higher rep sets. I saw solid gains all around doing that. I've kind of tapered off now but I don't eat enough and I work too much and sleep too little so I believe that has something to do with it. Anyway, FWIW I found that there aren't many sources of information out there as to how to continue driving your gains up after you finish that beginner stage where gains are very easy.

 

TL;DR: As an early intermediate coming off LP, I had greater success focusing on the big lifts and driving my numbers up without worrying about set routines or rep schemes that come with rigid programming.

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In my foray into 5/3/1, I did both the 4 day/week and the 2 day/week variations.  The 2 day/week variation was because I was focused on karate at the time.  I'll say that I found better results with the program running 4 days a week than I did 2.  There was more overall volume running 4 days due to the variation in assistance work, which I think is what I needed.

 

Wendler suggests between 3-5 exercises per session.  If you are doing the 1 major lift per day pattern, do 3-4 exercises (unless you are running the body building template): the main one plus 2-3 assistance exercises 5x10.  If you are doing 2 major lifts per day pattern, do 5 exercises: the 2 main ones and 3 assistance 5x10.

 

If you plan on running the 2 day/week variation with 2 major exercises, I recommend putting the upper body first.  The lower body work can fatigue the crap out of you, but I've never not been able to complete lower body reps because of the upper body work.  After both main lifts, then do your assistance.  I typically supersetted the assistance work, and tried to keep the pace up at that time.

 

If I were to go back to it, I would do the 4 day a week variation.  However, right now I'm refining my lifting philosophies and trying different approaches to getting stronger in 6-12 week cycles.  I'm pretty confident that when I get it dialed in how I want to train the different lifts day in and day out, I probably won't be doing anyone's set program.

 

For deadlift assistance work: I recommend RDLs or SLDLs for anything high rep.  Don't be afraid to use mixed grip to get a heavier barbell on them either.  RDLs at 50% of your training max and 5 sets of 10 are actually pretty challenging.  For the squats assistance, Wendler likes to do the leg press/curl combo.  I did 10 rep front squats for a while--not very enjoyable.  I even did 2.5 widowmakers with the back squat as the assistance work.  I'm thinking BBB is the best bet if you want to stick with the barbell.  The 5x10 is all about hypertrophy, so if you have something you would prefer to do from your body building work, go for it.

 

One piece of advice that came from Wendler and stuck with me even now is don't waste time in the weight room.  If it takes more than an hour to get through all that work it's taking too long.  Cut back on the rest time.  Increasing training density also helps out with the body comp endeavors.  If you go for the hormonal talk body builders like to engage in, 1 hour sessions give you the optimal training time to increase T while minimizing cortisol.  Either way, it saves time, builds in conditioning, and burns a few more calories.

Edited by FerrousMaverick
add "more than" ... an hour

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I've been training using either 5/3/1 directly or my own programs that follow the same philosophy for 2 years or more now, and have had incredible success and don't anticipate taking a different approach for the foreseeable future.

 

I'll try and add more as I think of them, but here's some things I've learned about the program in that time:

 

  1. Don't skip the deload. It's a mental break more than anything. You aren't going to get any stronger any faster at the end of the day by skipping it.
  2. Don't push every AMRAP set to max reps, especially on the lower body lifts. Leave a few in the tank and save the ball busters for special occasions.
  3. Consider just doing the minimum reps on all 3 sets, and then repeating the second set for max reps instead of the top set. That's what I've been doing for the last 3 months and am stronger than I've ever been in my life. This lets you raise the training max a little too and get in some heavier (but easy) work for practice's sake.

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Guest Robernaut

 

  1. Consider just doing the minimum reps on all 3 sets, and then repeating the second set for max reps instead of the top set. That's what I've been doing for the last 3 months and am stronger than I've ever been in my life. This lets you raise the training max a little too and get in some heavier (but easy) work for practice's sake.

 

 

This.

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Thanks for the input fellas, and great idea Adam, now I understand what you do with your programming.

Watch out son, im aiming to out bench you soon boy... lol

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Great advice above.  I have been doing 531 for just over a year.

 

I do the 4x a week...Press, squat, bench, Dead.  Always a rest day after lower body. BBB accessory

 

I do not skip the deload.  If you are skipping the deload, you probably are not working hard enough the other three weeks.  For me, I am physically and mentally exhausted and need it.

 

I got cute with my accessory changing things around, doing 350, etc.  I basically do 1 or 2 "bang of your buck" accessories after BBB like kroc rows for grip/upper back or pullups.

 

I have played with doing the minimum AMRAP on 3 week and then going all out on 1 week...or the opposite.  It really depends on the lift.  My deadlift is much more advanced than my other lifts so that one I really can only do the minimum on 1 week. 

 

Recently, what has worked for my deads is trying to set rep records in 5 week.  My deadlift PR went up after doing 8x495 and 8x500 in back to back cycles on 5 week AMRAP.

 

I try to get done in 65 minutes...heavy deadlift days are longer but some of that is socializing on Saturday.

 

Good luck!

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Not to contradict the strong lifters above (and I don't have the first hand experience), but one of the strongest lifters in  my gym (40 yo and natural, which is rare in these parts) trains 5/3/1, but thinks deload is a waste of time unless needed (in his case, he reckons once every three cycles or so, and he prefers just to take time off gym completely, rather than go through the motions). His best lifts are 190 kg bench, 130 kg press, 240 kg squat (high bar ATG) and 300 kg deadlift @ 120 kg BW. The reason I know all of this, is because I enjoy talking programming and he is a programming geek (and form nazi) just like myself :)

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He is essentially doing a full weeks rest every 9 weeks.  Interesting...but there are 1 in a million freaks out there who can do that.   I know as a 42 year old natural, I need the deload to give my back a rest from the heavy weights.  Also for what Adam also said, mentally giving myself a break from lifting heavy weight. 

 

I do agree a week off completely does wonders and not enough people do that.  On holiday, they try to fit a crap session in a gym in a hotel, etc. which usually does not pay dividends back for the time spent.

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@Kaktu3, does he put his dead/squat back to back and the two presses later?  Just curious about that because I recently started doing that--and my back feels better for it.  Instead of spreading out the hammering, just getting it all over with at once gives me just about all week to recover.  And that's as a 41 year old natural--though hardly with the numbers that guy is pulling.

 

Wendler recently described a 6 week variation of 5/3/1 where you essentially only take the deload after the 6 weeks is up.  I think he also had you stay at the same weight, but can't remember the specifics.

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I have run 531 unsuccessfully but that is MY fault, not the fault of the program, as I didn't run it as per Jim's recomendation

I'm trying it again with more patience and expecting to see good results this time IF I keep my shit straight 

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He is essentially doing a full weeks rest every 9 weeks.  Interesting...but there are 1 in a million freaks out there who can do that.   I know as a 42 year old natural, I need the deload to give my back a rest from the heavy weights.  Also for what Adam also said, mentally giving myself a break from lifting heavy weight. 

 

I do agree a week off completely does wonders and not enough people do that.  On holiday, they try to fit a crap session in a gym in a hotel, etc. which usually does not pay dividends back for the time spent.

 

My friend is short and stocky (and fat) and built to lift, so I think that part of the reason his lower back is able to sustain that amount of work (although he is pretty smart about it, see my reply to Berin below). He is also a single man and does freelance work for living, so his recovery opportunities are better than the majority of the lifting population at that age.

 

I am going to take a complete week off after my current cycle too, as I find it very difficult to lift light and I think it is indeed easier mentally to just know you have a period of down time from the gym for one stretch of a time.

 

@Kaktu3, does he put his dead/squat back to back and the two presses later?  Just curious about that because I recently started doing that--and my back feels better for it.  Instead of spreading out the hammering, just getting it all over with at once gives me just about all week to recover.  And that's as a 41 year old natural--though hardly with the numbers that guy is pulling.

 

Wendler recently described a 6 week variation of 5/3/1 where you essentially only take the deload after the 6 weeks is up.  I think he also had you stay at the same weight, but can't remember the specifics.

 

No, he is sticking to 4-day split, but he only deadlifts once per 3 week wave (1+ week), and does heavy rack pulls on the other two weeks. He also high bar squats, which is less stressfull on the lower back vs. low bar, IME, and occasionally front squats.

 

His presses layout is: bench+overhead press and close grip bench+push press.

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No, he is sticking to 4-day split, but he only deadlifts once per 3 week wave (1+ week), and does heavy rack pulls on the other two weeks. He also high bar squats, which is less stressfull on the lower back vs. low bar, IME, and occasionally front squats.

 

His presses layout is: bench+overhead press and close grip bench+push press.

 

Interesting.  I've been thinking about going heavier a little more often with deadlifts, and that sounds like a good strategy.  I've also switched high bar, which if you are lifting without a belt seems to work better--at least for me.

 

Now to get my ankle healthy enough to handle squatting again.

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My friend is short and stocky (and fat) and built to lift, so I think that part of the reason his lower back is able to sustain that amount of work (although he is pretty smart about it, see my reply to Berin below). He is also a single man and does freelance work for living, so his recovery opportunities are better than the majority of the lifting population at that age.

 

I am going to take a complete week off after my current cycle too, as I find it very difficult to lift light and I think it is indeed easier mentally to just know you have a period of down time from the gym for one stretch of a time.

 

 

No, he is sticking to 4-day split, but he only deadlifts once per 3 week wave (1+ week), and does heavy rack pulls on the other two weeks. He also high bar squats, which is less stressfull on the lower back vs. low bar, IME, and occasionally front squats.

 

His presses layout is: bench+overhead press and close grip bench+push press.

 

Good info and now makes more sense. I have a smaller frame...and he is pulling heavy off the floor every three weeks.  Deadlifting on a 1 day (last workout of 1 week) in the upper 500's wrecks me for 3-4 days and I need the deload.  When 531 stops working for me, I'll look back at this post.  Thx

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Interesting stuff.

 

With training twice a week i'd probably get away with skipping deload, but i'll stick to it as planned as I'm doing the 3 month challenge variation which I noticed has slightly higher percentages for the working sets.

 

First session was tough, not a struggle, but it made me realise I really haven't been training as hard as I could be.

 

It's been a while since I've hit that kind of volume in a session.

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Yep.  After your first cycle, it might be worth shortening rest periods just a little at a time till you only rest about a minute tops between sets.  Adds some extra conditioning work to the session to kill two birds with one stone.  It might cut into your AMRAP set a little, but it also builds up your ability to recover more quickly.  Once I started doing that, I never looked back.

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5/3/1 w/BBB has turned out to be a good decision for me.  I was coming off LP SL (5x5...3x5...3x3... etc.) after hitting a wall (I was trying to cut at the same time btw...).  It was not the best start: the BBB was a real change in terms of volume and I felt it; meanwhile, I set my maxes just a bit high and started struggling with the AMRAP last set causing me to reset about 3 cycles in (my 1RMs were still progressing mind you).  After resetting a bit more conservatively, the program has truly given me solid progress across-the-board and brought me to where I am now.

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