T Nation

5/3/1 and Reps Possibly Too High


It seems to me that a lot of the workouts have some sets that involve sweating more than what would be considered ideal for gaining mass, for example today I gave the 5/3/1 a shot and worked legs. The squat wasn't too bad but the assistance workout of doing 5 sets of 15 for leg press seemed to be quite excessive for powerlifting. I understand that this plan has produced some very good results for the people who have stuck with it and obviously Jim Wendler himself, but am wondering if anyone else feels like the sets of 15 seem to be too many reps. I was sweating my ass off by the time I finished the 4th set, could it be I am working too heavy (doesn't even feel right saying that..)? Or is sweating a LOT not an issue at all as far as gaining mass?

~2 years of powerlifting, so I am still a beginner, this entire time I have been basically working with my own workout taking things here and there from other people I have lifted with and what I have been doing has produced some decent results, but I thought I would give something new a shot. Most of my workouts involve 3 working sets generally with no more than 5 reps on major lifts (bench, squat, deadlift, shoulder press) all starting with a light warmup set, and then for my supplemental workouts I would work generally between 5-10 reps in my sets (still sticking to 3 sets per exercise) and I would typically do 3-5 supplemental workouts following my main lift. My week would typically be:

Day 1: Legs (squat, leg press, leg extensions, leg curls, calf raises)
Day 2: Chest+Tris (flat bench, incline, dumbbell press, tricep rope pull down)
Day 3: Back (Deadlift, bent bar rows, seated rows, lat pull down, t bar)
Day 4: Shoulders (military shoulder press, dumbbell military press, front raise, side raise, shrugs)
Day 5: Arms (skull crushers, barbell curls, overhead tricep extension, dumbbell curls, rope pull down, wide grip overhand pull ups)

This has been getting result for me, but of course I plateau occasionally doing the same workouts so I will change a little here and there but I was thinking of drastically revamping my workout, so that is why I decided I may want to try something new such as the 5/3/1.

Results from my plan (1RM):

Weight: 150 --> ~183
Bench: 175 --> 265
Squat: 185 --> ~365
Deadlift: 225 --> ~405

Any thoughts or comments is greatly appreciated. My questions aren't strictly pertaining to the 5/3/1 it is to powerlifting with high reps in general.


you are talking about gaining mass and strength which can be 2 different goals. from your numbers it sounds as if you are making real good gains! i would be happy with that percentage increase. low reps build strength, higher reps size- usually. everyone is different though and you have to do what works for you. look into bill starr programs or westside barbell/elite fts for more strengthening programs. i personally couldnt do the frequency that you do, i stick to 3 days per week, but do what works best.


If you truly have brought you maxes that high(in 2yrs?) then you are obviously doing something right. But I would take the advice zishe gave and pick up a program like Bill Starr or Madcow 5x5. I gotta say though if you are aiming to be a powerlifter, you need to focus more on you main lifts and not as much on your assistance work. Your program looks identical to a bodybuilding template.


The Boring But Big template (BBB) is 5 sets of 10, not 5 sets of 15. Sweating isn't a problem, and if you have goals to grow mass or burn fat, you may be in good shape. If you are just in for sheer strength, no need to do much more than the minimum as long as you are accomplishing your goals.

That is the key, no matter what-as long as what you are doing is allowing you to accomplish your goals, keep doing it.

If you haven't bought the e-book, I suggest taking a trip on over to Elite FTS' website and buying the 5/3/1 book for reference. That will answer most of your questions about loads and templates.


appreciate the feedback guys. i frowned a little when i saw the comment about it being identical to a body building template, but it is what it is. like I said i have taken everything i do from various people i have lifted with over the last 2 years and have been getting results towards the big 3 lifts from doing it, so i wasn't sure which workouts i should keep and which ones i should cut out. i should have clarified before, i am aiming to gain mass and continue to gain mass, i haven't decided on a number to stop on yet but no less than 30+ pounds in weight, 210+ at the minimum is where i would like my weight to be. strength is of course my main concern, but i understand that strength comes with size if you are lifting right. i plateaued @ 245 for a long time at bench weighing 165-170 and when i reached 180+ weight i was able to increase my bench to 265 in a very short time.

i may look into that BBB template, i really am all about doing the most simple workouts and have no desire to body build, cut, or what have you. Strictly looking for size and strength with the goal of some day getting to a very competitive level. i am not concerned with gaining some fat, even though i dont see that happening i just cant ever seem to eat enough (4-5k+ calories a day usually). one issue i run into is i tend to overwork which i know is bad for powerlifting, i end up getting bored because what i do after i get off work is go lift, if i dont lift it sometimes feels like a wasted day.

would i see faster/better results if i worked out less often? to be honest, the last 3 months or so i have worked out literally every single day i possibly could. just been putting those 5 days together and starting from day 1 the day after i finish day 5. i have tried 5, 6, and 7 day weeks and have never experimented with anything less than 5 at this point and have gotten the above results from it. it might seem excessive but i guess you could say i have an addiction.

I will note again that I did find that i did like doing the 3 sets of 5 for the first week of the 5/3/1 in squat and i understand that is the most important lift of that day and anything after isn't nearly as important, i just wanted to make sure i wasn't wasting any gains by sweating too much.


Higher reps work well for assistance but I keep it at 10 and not 15 except for the last set. I do this sometimes for a break in higher rep stuff but usually just 1 lift at a time not all of them, this kind of thing will work better with some lifts than others.

Week 1: 5 sets of 10 (up to 15 on last set only)
Week 2: 5 sets of 5-8
Week 3: Same as week 1 but try the next highest increment of weight

Also recommend you buy the e-book if you have not done so already. Your initial gains were considered as newbie gains so pretty much any program you did would have got you there. Its good you are looking into a new program at this point rather than using your own for several more year with little progress.


Yeah, I appreciate the positive feedback on the gains I have made so far but I do understand most of it was newbie gains. I probably would have had a lot more progress over this time but there have been other circumstances involved (military life, injuries, etc..) that have disrupted my progress, and the fact that I have been apparently using a bodybuilding template for powerlifting goals probably hasn't helped me as much as a real workout plan. I think I may cut out a few of my workouts that aren't really geared towards the main lifts such as shrugs, front/side raises, and a few others. still debating which plan i want to stick to, but ill figure it out soon


If you do go for 5/3/1 your workout will be VERY different from the above.
Why would sweating be bad for mass/strength gains?


Good grief people!

OP, AVOID all those 5x5, 3-5 lift templates and boring but big like the plague... You are doing fine, and you're probably eating alright (as opposed to a lot of people on a certain website) if you can do what you're doing, routine-wise...
I'd add some more hamstring work personally, but whatever. Making sure that your technique and setup is alright on your main lifts is likely going to do way more for you than jumping on one of the aforementioned routines.

Regarding the whole bb-routine thing...
This kind of routine isn't nearly as unpopular in powerlifting as people make it out to be... Not everyone does nothing but a shit ton of work on their main lifts... If anything, lots of volume per exercise just gets me injured.

Google Jeremy Hoornstra (he has his log online) for an example of a guy who trains in a similar way and is one of the best benchers ever and very strong all around for a 242 guy... He goes heavy on pretty much everything (or used to) which is more than I can do, but you can just modify things so that they work for you...

Then there's another guy in the "600 raw bench" (for reps) thread here in the powerlifting forum for example, see what he is doing... The general way of organizing things (big 3 variation ramped to low reps ME work style, another heavy lift for moderate reps, then higher rep stuff) is one I've found very effective, though I prefer to go light every 4th week or so...

5/3/1 is just a scheme for your main lifts, so you can do that on your big 3-4 and do your other exercises the way you always did them and be totally fine as long as you eat right.
I personally like the 10% jump table for 5/3/1 better than the regular one if you're repping out on your last set.
The 5/3/1 standard scheme doesn't look much different from what a lot of bodybuilders do anyway, except that you cycle your intensity in a more organized fashion.


5/3/1 is just a set/rep scheme... Unless he actually wants to use one of the books' assistance templates, he can just incorporate it into his old routine.


And if you want to make sure you're on the right track...

At your height and based on what you're doing now... See if you can hit a 405 raw bench the first time you hit 220-230 bw or so... It will likely be progress in spurts as you've already noticed (apart from making small changes to your routine, don't forget to up your cals and protein intake as you gain bodyweight)...
Squat 500, maybe for reps... Deadlift 600, again maybe for reps.

It's obviously individual, but I'd say you should be able to do that... After holding your weight a bit and working on your relative strength more (keep protein very high, but don't eat so much in terms of cals that you keep gaining bodyweight much), you might be able to hit those numbers at 210 or so even after cutting down a bit. 242-275 may be a better final bw range for you at your height in terms of what numbers you can then put up, but it's all up to what you want.

Another 1.5-2 years or so, or more if life intervenes or you get injured (be careful with your exercise selection and know when to back off, i.e. skullcrushers done the traditional way aren't too elbow friendly and so on, so careful there) and you may well be 230 with the lifts I mentioned unless you get side-tracked.

Once you're there... You can try out all those other training styles if you really want to... More relative-strength focused stuff works imo much better if you already have a good amount of muscle mass (and general bw) for your height... Better leverages, potential for greater strength gains etc...


Man if what you are doing is working, then it doesnt matter. I definitely understand wanting to gain weight so keep doing what your doing.


Youre worried about not being able to gain mass because of sweating too much?

You might be over thinking this. Seems sweat doesnt stop one from gettin big.