2 Yrs (w/ a Break in the Middle) of Results

I’m about to be 51 in January of next year, and weigh 200#. Back in April of 2013, at age 48, I got over-ambitious in testing 1RM’s without a spotter and blew my left pectoral muscle off my shoulder completely. 1 surgery and 8 months later, in January 2014 I started doing 5/3/1 again, with very conservative weights. Here are my results from 2 partial years (18 cycles) of 5/3/1 (all weeks are the 1+ week of the cycle):

Week of 6/3/14 - Cycle 5 (where I first started logging here on T-Nation)
Press - 5x135#
Deadlift - 5x280#
Bench Press - 5x155#
Squat - 5x245#

Week of 11/10/14 - Cycle 10
Press - 4x155#
Deadlift - 5x325#
Bench Press - 5x205#
Squat - 5x290#

Took a 5-month-long break due to a combination of life circumstances, and inertia and laziness once the life circumstances were taken care of. Calculated new training maxxes and started over.

Week of 5/25/15 - new Cycle 1
Press - 5x135#
Deadlift - 5x295#
Bench Press - 5x185#
Squat - 5x265#

Week of 11/2/15 - new cycle 8 (weird numbers are because I’ve built a home gym, with a combination of English and metric weights)
Press - 8x165#
Deadlift - 8x356.5#
Bench Press - 9x220.5#
Squat - 10x326.5#

Week of 11/9/15 - tested 1RM on all lifts:
Press - 1x195#
Deadlift - 1x425#
Bench - 1x265#
Squat - 1x405#

Some observations about how things worked for me:

1 - Starting with very conservative training maxxes and keeping to the 5# for pressing movements/10# for deadlift/squat increases is absolutely the way to go, especially for an older guy like me. For one thing, it gives my tendons and ligaments a chance to keep up with my muscle strength so I don’t detach anything, and for another, I haven’t had to reset once, except for the obvious long break.

2 - Even after taking a 5 month break, I didn’t lose nearly as much strength as I though I would. My training maxxes after the reset ended up being way too conservative, illustrated by the fact that 8 cycles later I’m still hitting 8-10 reps on the 1+ sets. the 10 cycles I did before the long break built a foundation that didn’t go away.

3 - To combine point 1 with point 2, even though my training maxxes after the break ended up being way conservative, I still stuck with the 5#/10# increase protocol. What I did instead was ignore the previously self-imposed 10/8/5 rep max on the 5+/3+/1+ sets, and just go for whatever I could do.

4 - I do two things that Jim doesn’t recommend, but they work with where I am right now. First, as I said before, I haven’t reset once, outside of the long break I took early this year. As long as I’m still hitting as many reps as I am on the 1+ week, I will keep doing this. Second, I am using joker sets every cycle, but only for a specific purpose and in a specific place. Since my training max is still artificially low, but I’m not going to reset it, I do jokers on every 3+ week, and I only do 3 rep jokers.

From what I’ve been reading here on T-Nation, 3 rep sets are useful for building strength more than singles, and from a mental standpoint it keeps me motivated if I can keep adding weight to the top 3 rep set. Once my training max catches so that my 1+ sets drop down to 5 or less, I’ll drop both of these, and start doing 5 forward/3 back with only occasional jokers, but for right now this is working, so why mess with success?

So, once again, thanks, Jim, for developing a program that’s effective over a long haul and easy to use. While I may try some of your challenges in the future, once the base program starts to stall, I don’t see any need to ever use a different program. I’m in for life.