T Nation

5/3/1 BBB and Chronic Low Back Pain


#1

Hi Jim, all

First of all, thank you for an amazing programme. I have been doing various other routines for years, mainly ‘eastern’ powerlifting programmes, such as Korte, Sheiko, Fomin, but your 5/3/1 programme simply brings something new and challenging. I have only read your first book, but I would like to stick with it for the time being, as I like the simplicity and philosophy behind it (I truly believe that 5/3/1 is more than a training, it’s a way of life really…).

Anyway, back to the issue mentioned in the subject. I did basic 5/3/1 BBB for just over six weeks, but started suffering from low back pain few weeks into the routine. The low back got simply strained, nothing acute (i.e. nothing like not being able to stand up from bed), but I was getting close to it. I therefore decided to back up and moved to Sheiko after deload.

I would, however, want to get back to 5/3/1 BBB and, in fact, I have already started with first two weeks completed. Unfortunately, the low back pain has returned. I personally think that my problem is in BBB sets. I have no issues going heavy, but the BBB 5x10 sets, which I do immediately after the PR set, are just killing me. Especially on deadlifts, but I can feel my back also on squats. I believe I keep a good form when doing these, but my body does not seem to be used to this kind of overload (all the above mentioned routines keep the reps to 5 maximum).

I used to have problems with my lower back also before doing 5/3/1, but in a manageable way (occasional minor strains and one major incident 4 years ago, but fully recovered). I believe my main mistake was that when I started with powerlifting, I was using belt on every moderate to heavy set. I have stopped doing that 4 years ago to strengthen my core and lower back, and now I take belt only if I do 1 rep PRs. However, ever since the injury, I have been on and off training, as the life got into way (moving to different country, work, etc.). I know, I shouldn’t be bullshitting myself - I was just weak! :slight_smile:

I have now done nine months of training without any major interruptions and feel in a good shape in terms of strength (I hit my all-time PRs again). However, I have also added quite a lot of fat over the last few years (went from 92 to 100 kg) and my work means sitting behind PC for 12 hours a day in average, which probably does not help the low back case neither. My goals have now changed, as I am not competing any more, but I would like to keep getting stronger (and maybe compete once again, just for fun?) and also get back into shape (i.e. lose that f*cking fat). Any advice on how to continue with 5/3/1 to achieve these goals, but prevent any low back injuries will be much appreciated.

Many thanks,
Ivan

P.S.: I used to do DeFranco’s Agile 8, but recently moved to his Limber 11 routine, which I do at the start of each training session.


#2

Around this time last year, I began dealing with chronic lower back issues, eventually leading to sciatica in my right leg. A simple low back strain around July of 2014 lead to this, as it never would heal. It got so bad it affected my quality of life. Many nights of tossing and turning, incredibly painful days of sitting at a desk all day at work.

Looking back at my logs, I was deadlifting one day, light squats with the deload %s another day, then squatting another day. My lower back was just never getting a chance to fully recover. I never felt strong because I was always in pain.

After realizing this, I decided to alternate heavy squats and deads just one day per week. So now, I basically do the Old Man Winter/2x2x2 training. I do squats 3x3+ week 1 with 3x3 on deads with the 3x5%s. Week 2 is the reverse, with squats at the 3x5% for 3x3, then my full DL session. I also incorporate the Joker sets, then do FSL for multiple back off sets with a lift variation of the main lift (Olympic squats, Defecit DLs, pause bench, etc) for where I am weakest.

FWIW, I am 36 years old, best lifts have been 405x2/315x2 (275 CGBP)/ and 475x4 at about 6’1 220ish. Nothing to write home about, but I am pretty much a desk jockey at this point who rarely does any athletic.

Sorry to ramble, but long story short is listen to your body. Make adjustments and make your training your own. Because of the number of hours I accumulate each week sitting at a desk, I have to limit the number of times I load my lower back. It took me a long time to realize this as I am naturally stubborn, but if lifting is leaving you in constant pain, are you really getting stronger. Best of luck.


#3

[quote]Ivkosky wrote:
Hi Jim, all

First of all, thank you for an amazing programme. I have been doing various other routines for years, mainly ‘eastern’ powerlifting programmes, such as Korte, Sheiko, Fomin, but your 5/3/1 programme simply brings something new and challenging. I have only read your first book, but I would like to stick with it for the time being, as I like the simplicity and philosophy behind it (I truly believe that 5/3/1 is more than a training, it’s a way of life really…).

Anyway, back to the issue mentioned in the subject. I did basic 5/3/1 BBB for just over six weeks, but started suffering from low back pain few weeks into the routine. The low back got simply strained, nothing acute (i.e. nothing like not being able to stand up from bed), but I was getting close to it. I therefore decided to back up and moved to Sheiko after deload.

I would, however, want to get back to 5/3/1 BBB and, in fact, I have already started with first two weeks completed. Unfortunately, the low back pain has returned. I personally think that my problem is in BBB sets. I have no issues going heavy, but the BBB 5x10 sets, which I do immediately after the PR set, are just killing me. Especially on deadlifts, but I can feel my back also on squats. I believe I keep a good form when doing these, but my body does not seem to be used to this kind of overload (all the above mentioned routines keep the reps to 5 maximum).

I used to have problems with my lower back also before doing 5/3/1, but in a manageable way (occasional minor strains and one major incident 4 years ago, but fully recovered). I believe my main mistake was that when I started with powerlifting, I was using belt on every moderate to heavy set. I have stopped doing that 4 years ago to strengthen my core and lower back, and now I take belt only if I do 1 rep PRs. However, ever since the injury, I have been on and off training, as the life got into way (moving to different country, work, etc.). I know, I shouldn’t be bullshitting myself - I was just weak! :slight_smile:

I have now done nine months of training without any major interruptions and feel in a good shape in terms of strength (I hit my all-time PRs again). However, I have also added quite a lot of fat over the last few years (went from 92 to 100 kg) and my work means sitting behind PC for 12 hours a day in average, which probably does not help the low back case neither. My goals have now changed, as I am not competing any more, but I would like to keep getting stronger (and maybe compete once again, just for fun?) and also get back into shape (i.e. lose that f*cking fat). Any advice on how to continue with 5/3/1 to achieve these goals, but prevent any low back injuries will be much appreciated.

Many thanks,
Ivan

P.S.: I used to do DeFranco’s Agile 8, but recently moved to his Limber 11 routine, which I do at the start of each training session.[/quote] Do you do any conditioning? 5x10 squats should be easy and fast. How tall are you? 100kg isnt fat you can be a bigger leaner 100kg if you wanto be.


#4

Like Dre Cappa, I adjust my DL routines. I am on the 27 week BBB and do NOT do BBB on DL, instead I do full range GHR for the 5x10 work (Jim mentions this option in the Beyond book), but I do it on my squat days. I also do the 5x10 squats as my warmup on the DL days. That has made a huge difference and I haven’t had any low back issues (and I have a fucked up back), plus I get to squat more frequently, which is always a win.


#5

Hi guys

Many thanks for your replies and Dre, thanks for your inputs. I believe you are right, I have never really properly listened to my body and just tried to stick to the ‘plan’. Your numbers are great, my current raw single rep maxes (tested, not calculated) are 175kg/115kg/235kg.

I have always been a bit stronger on DL and weaker in squats - legs are strong and can bounce 175kg easily, but low back is the limiting factor. I have problems keeping my chest up and then usually hurt my back when doing such heavy squats.

Later on I noticed that when going below parallel I did quite a visible butt wink, which I guess was a result of my earlier injury (not powerlifting related) - I tore some tissues in my left-leg ankle four years ago, which is healed now, but I have only limited mobility in my left ankle as a result of this. To mitigate this, I have recently changed my shoes from flat thin shoes to olympic weightlifting shoes and focused more on mobility exercises. I also don’t try to go ‘ass to grass’ anymore, but control the squat just below parallel and move back up. I believe the butt wink issue has been solved thanks to these.

You may have also noticed a rather poor benchpress. I hit a plateau few years ago and cannot move up. I am doing the arch and everything, additional exercises such as dips, etc., but no luck there.

Shaun87, to your questions, the only conditioning I do at the moment are farmer’s walks. I used to do sprints on threadmill, but it didn’t really do any good to my lower back - it usually hurts the day after and when combined with a powerlifting training the day before or after running, I basically can be sure that I kill the back in a week or so. I do have proper running shoes and I believe I also have a good running technique (I used to play tennis for a number of years when I was younger - knowing how to sprint was essential).

I am 177 cm tall, 30 years old. The 5x10 squats are indeed easy for me, as long as I can maintain a proper technique and ‘lock’ my back so that I don’t move it an inch during the movement. 5x10 on deadlifts is a killer and I often have to take a bit longer break between the sets, hang myself on the pull-up rack or somewhere, or lay down on a bench for a while to wait for the low back pain to go away…