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1/6 Contrast Style Loading with 5/3/1

Short Version- Is it worth alternating heavy singles with the 5/3/1 work sets to increase neural activation?

Long Version-

Hey All. Wanted to get some opinions on a small tweak I’m thinking of implementing in my program.

Current Stats
23yo Male 5’ 10’’ 210 lbs, trying to slowly work my way down to 200

So I’m a huge fan of 5/3/1. Been using it in various forms for probably two years now, and it’s gotten me bigger and stronger than ever before. Currently I am running a 4x/wk split. Inspired by some stuff in Beyond 5/3/1, as well as Dan John’s One Lift a Day program, I recently switched to making the bulk of my training only on the 4 big lifts. I’ve seen some solid technique and strength improvement on the big 4, and recovery seems easier than ever. I recently decided to drop my TM a few cycles to allow for me to hit some slightly higher PR sets, and leave room for a couple heavier singles after the work sets. The typical template I use is something like this

3 warm up sets
3 5/3/1 Work Sets
3 Joker singles, adding 5% of TM from the PR set
5 sets of Second Set Last for 2-5 reps (as opposed to First Set Last)

I like SSL more than FSL simply because I’m trying to accumulate more high quality volume for strength. I feel that doing more reps in the 75-85% range will help with building and expressing strength more than doing extra reps in the 65-75% range.

This whole workout takes roughly 35 minutes after my warm up, and then I follow it up with 5-10 minutes of optional assistance (weighted carries on lower body days, curls and dips ect on upper body days)

My last Deadlift workout for example, looked like this


3x285 (75%)
2x320 (85%)
5x360 (PR set, 95%)

1x375 (100%)
1x395 (105%)
1x415 (110%)


I was reading CT’s article 22 Proven Rep Schemes, and I came across the 1/6 contrast loading. I was intrigued, and started to fiddle with it to see if I could come up with something that included the principals of 1/6 contrast.

My idea is basically to take the heavy Joker singles and alternate them with the 5/3/1 sets to get the increased neural activation CT talked about. So taking the above workout and changing it would look like






There are a couple advantages to this set up that I see. First, workout volume would increase slightly due to the extra warm up set needed to build to the first single (14 sets to 15.) Second, the heaviest single would be performed when I am slightly fresher (since I have not yet completed the draining PR set,) which would keep my technique cleaner. And third, with the PR set coming after a heavy single, the extra neural activation could allow me to do even more reps, again increasing workout volume. But other than that, I’m still performing the same workout, just the sets are rearranged.

The couple issues I see are

  1. In the article, CT recommends doing the contrast from 70-95% with much smaller percentage jumps (2.5-5% vs 5-10%). Would the advantages of this scheme be lost with the increase in jump size?

  2. I added an extra warm up set in the new template to accommodate my jump to the first heavy single. Still, it might be too much to jump to a single at 90-100% of my TM by my fifth set.

  3. In the 5’s week, the contrast in reps/set (1 to 5) is very close to the 1-6 CT recommends. Other than that, the contrast isn’t as great (2-3 to 1). Again, could the effectiveness of this rep scheme be lost in this change?

  4. It’s just a thought experiment and I may try it out for a cycle or two to see how I like it, but it is very possible I could be tampering too much with a good thing, and I should just stick with what is proven to work, and either do what I’ve been doing or follow the 1/6 contrast exactly as CT outlined.

Just throwing this out there for some advice. Thanks for your time.