T Nation

3's Pro with DL and Disc Herniations


Hey Jim, had a couple questions about 3's Pro, specifically as regarding the deadlift.

I am just coming back from a pretty bad disc herniation at L4-L5 that had me sidelined for the better part of a year. After I swallowed my pride and admitted I was hurt and couldn't fix it myself, I eventually found a great physio, followed all his directions, and have been given the go ahead to start training again. I bought your books and have been doing 5/3/1 for 6 weeks now. Prior to that I was doing the GSLP from StrengthVillain and my PR deadlift was 585x1 and 535x5, pulling conventional.

So far I have been easing myself back into deadlifting. I've switched to sumo. No sets higher than 5. Really conscious about form at all times and taking it slow. I pulled 405x3 last week from the floor, and rack pulled conventional 485x3 the week before. So I'm moving forward, slowly.

As I program deadlifting back in so its more regular, I'm interested in 3's Pro. So far, on the other lifts, I've been doing BBB. For deadlifts I'm doing back raises and hanging knee raises as assistance instead of the 5x10 sets, though I do like your 5x3 @ 75% sets from the Beyond 5/3/1 program you posted here. Might try those out.

The biggest question about 3's Pro is, for the first week, the one that is usally 5's, do you alter the percentages at all? Match the 3's week? Or leave as is at 65/75/85?

Normally I bet you compensate for the lower percentages by killing your last set even harder, but I want to keep the reps/set down so I think I'm going to cap my 3+ sets at 5 or 6 reps. Maybe do more Jokers to compensate?

Anyone else coming back from disc herniations, would love to hear what works/doesnt work for you.



I AM NOT A DOCTOR but I can tell you what has worked for me with a similar issue.

Starting in May 2012 I started to have a stabbing/burning pain in my inner thighs/hamstrings while deadlifting. (Training split Mon-Squat, Tues-Bench, Thursday-Deadlift and Sat-OHP). It got worse and worse throughout the summer and eventually spread to both legs and would also come on even when I wasn’t doing anything.

I noticed that if I squatted hard on Monday I would start to get muscle twitching in my thigh/hamstrings on Tuesday afternoon and it would turn into full blown muscle spasms starting about Wednesday morning and going sometimes even as late as Saturday. The worst pain was when I would put DOWN the deadlift.

Eventually my doctors figured out that it was probably lumbar herniation (confirmed with MRI). The squats would start to create swelling around the nerves starting on Tuesday and choke them off over the next few days while my normal workout inflammation went away. They didn’t figure this crap out until Dec 2012. Had some spinal injections done but I don’t really think they helped that much here is how I changed up my training program. Once again I’M NOT A DOCTOR this is just what has worked for me.

Switched my 5/3/1 squats to the box squat and kept my BBB sets as the free squat.

Also on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon I would do slow deliberate Prowler pushes with a kind of heavy weight. The trick is to push them kind of like you’re doing a mountain climber with a full range of motion and really pressing into each step. Even if I was having muscle spasms on Wednesday I noticed I could force myself through the Prowler because of the lack of an eccentric movement (especially when pushing slowly). Somehow either this forced a lot of blood into my lower back and hips or aligned my hips or something but 99% of the time it worked and I would feel great for deadlifts on Thursday.

In July 2013 I switched back to completely free squatting and doing the Prowler prehab/rehab has kept me deadlifting even though I can still kind of feel that there is an issue back there. It just prevents me from getting the extremely painful muscle spasms.

Rarely I’ve went to deadlift on Thursday and I’ll know as soon as I put some 10lb bumpers on the bar and force myself through a few reps whether or not I’ll be able to DL or if I need to do one more day of Prowler rehab/prehab. Doing it Tues-Weds almost always works, Tues-Thurs definitely work. I just prefer to DL on Thur so it give me a little more recovery before OHP on Saturday.

Training split now looks like:

Monday morning 5/3/1 squats and assistance
Monday Afternoon Prowler conditioning (sprints)

Tuesday morning 5/3/1 bench and assistance
Tues afternoon Prowler rehab/prehab

Wednesday morning Prowler rehab/prehab

Thursday morning 5/3/1 deadlift preferable more Prowler rehab/prehab if I must

Friday morning Prowler conditiong preferable or DL if couldn’t do it Thurs

Sat morning 5/3/1 OHP

Sunday off


"The biggest question about 3’s Pro is, for the first week, the one that is usally 5’s, do you alter the percentages at all? Match the 3’s week? Or leave as is at 65/75/85? "

No! That would completely ruin the whole purpose of the 3’s PRO as would PR sets.


Thanks Finteal,

I’ve found the same thing. Read a lot of Dr. Stuart McGill’s work and have tried to avoid any sort of spinal flexion by training smarter.

I have been squatting to a box. First it was an 18" box, which put me quite high, but let me get used to having weight on my back. I’m now down to a 15" box, which puts pretty much right at parallel, as low as I can go without my butt tucking under and my back rounding. So far it has been great and I can squat pain free, with no after effects the next day.

Deadlifting, I started with a Trap Bar using the high handles, got up to 405+2 chains for sets of ten, then moved to low handles, and finally now to sumo. Conventional still seems to pull me out of position at the bottom, haven’t pulled more than 135 from the floor that way. But I have pulled 485 from just below the knees conventional; I just cant bend that last few inches safely yet, I’m still too tight and my hamstrings pull my back into a bad position. Sumo feels good on my back, I just don’t have much experience pulling this way as it is completely new to me and it doesnt feel completely natural yet.

My hamstrings are still super tight as the disc was pressing directly on the S1 nerve root, and I have had lots of visual atrophy of my right glute. Every week my ROM increases though, with the most progress happening since I started regularly programmed training again.

I am still seeing my physio once or twice a week. He monitors my progress, stretches me out, and I run all my movements through him. He is, however, a physiotherapist; he’s very clearly not a Strength Coach. And he is the first to admit that.

Thanks Jim, I’ll run the percentages as is for a few cycles and then re-evaluate.