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5/3/1 100% Beginner. Complete Workout Advice?

Hi there!

I’m encouraged to start this program, I’ve been off the gym in a long time (almost 2 years of complete inactivity), so I started about a week ago with just really small weights to squat, bench press and deadlift, as well as some walking and running, you know, to start my muscles up again a bit.

Now, my main goal is to get stronger, as I’m planning on taking over my BJJ classes and maybe even compete next year. I know this sounds too general, I’m just that vague about my objective, since as I said before, I’ve been off sports completly for almost 2 years, which means that any result is way better than nothing.

I’ve been reading a lot about programs, and I found 5/3/1 to be the simplest for me, however, I have the most stupid question about it (I already ordered the book, I’m sure the answer is there, but maybe someone can point it out to me before, so I can get started):

  • I understand that we focus on one lift per day, but my question is, let’s say I start monday, I choose deadlift for that day, and once I complete the sets for this lift, what else do I do? I read about the complementary excersices, such as pull ups, chin ups, but I understand that’s accesory to the main training. Can someone give me an example of a complete day with this program?

I know this is a stupid basic question, and I’m sorry for the long post, but I’m just not understanding it completely and I want to start off with the right foot.

My lifts right now:
Deadlift: 72.5 kg (counting the bar) x 8 reps
Bench press: 40 kgs (counting the bar) x 8 reps
Squat: 72.5 kg (counting the bar) x 8 reps

Any piece of advice you think I need, I’d appreciate it, and any questions you may have, I’m here to answer.

Thanks in advance,

Read this article: https://www.t-nation.com/workouts/531-how-to-build-pure-strength

Towards the bottom he gives a sample program, the Triumvirate. That’s a pretty solid program. It’s simple - 1 primary movement a day, and then 2 assistance movements (with sets and reps included!). If you really just want it all layed out for you, that’s a perfectly fine one to use.

Really, you’re just gonna want to work the muscle involved in the primary movements when you do your accessory work.

Squats: quads, hams, glutes, lower back, abs
Deadlift: same as squat, plus upper back and forearms/grip
OH Press: shoulders, triceps, upper back, + lower back & abs to some extent
Bench Press: shoulders, triceps, chest, upper back

Read this article: https://www.t-nation.com/training/blood-and-chalk-5 for examples of good movements you can do for each muscle group.

Prioritizing your posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, lower back) over the front (quads, and possibly abs) and the upper back/rear side of the shoulders compared to the chest/front side of the shoulders will benefit you greatly in the long run.

Your knees, lower back, and shoulders will feel better and have a lower chance of injury, your posture will be better, you’ll be stronger and more athletic, and those muscles are “harder” to build, so you’ll become mentally stronger and probably better looking than most lifters who focus on their “beach muscles” (chest, arms, abs).

That’s not saying it’s ok to have weak quads/abs, or a weak chest, but simply to make the muscles in the front strong, and the muscles in the back stronger.

So do lots and lots of rowing (with barbells, dumbbells, and your bodyweight) and chinups. Always. This will most likely eliminate any shoulder issues you could possibly run into, and believe it or not, but your bench press and overhead press will go up because of it. If you’re not strong enough to do chinups, do more rows, and there’s plenty of resources for improving chinup strength on T-Nation.

Kinda went off a rant here, but read the first article I sent you and just run the Triumvirate for a cycle or two (a cycle is the 4 week block the program runs in) and see what you think. It’s really simple and has it all layed out for you. Exactly what you need to do, every day. Otherwise I’m sure the book (never read it) has an even more simple “beginners” program.


Thanks a lot, that was really helpful and thorough. I’ll stick with Triunvirate for at least 4 cicles and see what happens. I really appreciate your help.

Wait till you get the book and try the beginner prep program that should be great for you. Ca a pris une semaine par poste pour le recevoir ici en Isreal alors soit patient. Jassume avec un nom comme Gaston que t francais bien sure.

Yeah, no problem.

One more thing I’d add, in terms of shoulder health, is to do face-pulls or pull-aparts with a band in between every set of bench pressing and overhead pressing.

If you don’t know what those movements are, just look them up on here - there’s been tons of articles about them. John Rusin has several it seems like. That’s just an extra way to get in some upper back work without tiring yourself out for the pressing. Then you can do your bigger pulling work, like chinups and rows, afterwards.

I’d do 20-40 reps between sets. I personally do 100 of one of the movements every single day, and it’s helped with some shoulder issues. If you’d rather focus on your pressing and not do anything between sets, just do 100 reps of one of those at the beginning or end of the workout.

Triumvirate is a great way to dive into 5/3/1. You’re really thinking about this very sensibly.

As an aside, I’ve been doing BJJ for about a year and a half after running at least 20 or so cycles of 5/3/1 (I’d have to go back and check my log, but nearly 2 continuous years of 5/3/1 progression). This is purely anecdotal, but I think getting stronger overall, especially in your posterior chain, is a great way to not get mangled on the mats.

The guys I look up to in BJJ are the ones who are still kicking ass in their 40’s (I’m 38). Almost every single one I know has respectable lifts on top of enough longevity in BJJ to make real progress. Meanwhile, I’ve seen some pretty nasty injuries and repetitive-use issues prop up in the BJJ crowd I’d respectfully term “toothpicks”. Guys in their 20’s always getting banged up, can’t stack themselves anymore, all kinds of bad stuff.

This is all purely anecdotal of course. I’m sure plenty of monsters have hurt themselves on the mats too. That’s just what I see in the people I observe.

Good luck in your training!

Thanks for your message, but I’m not french haha just the name I guess. I realized there’s a Kindle edition, so I’m going to get that instead of the paperback. Cheers!

I’ll certainly do that! No rubber bands in my gym, however, I have one myself, so I’ll just take it and will do 100 after every lifting sesion. I really need my shoulders healthy, so I’ll take your advice. Thanks again!

Thanks for your message! I’ve been training BJJ for 7 years now, however, as the past 2 years of my life have been kind of crazy, I’m still a brand new purple belt. I tried to get back on the mats about a month ago, completly out of shape and weak as I could possibly be; needless to say, I goy my ass handed out even by white belts haha and of course, I broke a rib, which is why I’m off the mats once again, this time capitalizing my time to get stronger as I’m now pain free. Cheers!

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There is no kindle version or Forever, you should order it and have the physical book. It’s great.

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For what it’s worth I bought the Kindle edition and plan on buying the paper version of the books. There’s so much info it’s way easier in my mind to be able to highlight and bookmark a physical copy. I understand you can do that on e-readers as well but I feel it’s easier in paper version.

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