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5/3/1 Beginner Template Assistance, Questions

Hi, I’ve been lurking T-Nation since I started lifting and just created an account a while ago and I see lots of knowledgeable people and helpful people here.

I’ve been lifting for about 8 months now.
I did some calisthenics training for about a year before but programmed it badly so it really didn’t help much outside of some endurance.
I am 20 years old, 183 cm (6’0?), and around hovering around 80kg at the moment ( I started at around 72kg)

I did Starting Strength for about 3 months until I started stalling on basically everything but deadlift and then switched to Greyskull LP which I did for another 4 1/2 months.
My workout schedule looked like this:

MO:
Back Squat 5/5/5+
Bench Press or Overhead Press 5/5/5+(ABA BAB so 2x in one week 1x in the next)
Muscle up 1x (2-3 whatever was about 1-2 reps short of failure)
Pull ups 1x max reps (dead hang)
Dips 1x max reps

WE:
BP or OP 5/5/5+
DL 1x5+
Muscle up 1x (2-3)
Pull ups 1x max reps (dead hang)
Dips 1x max reps

FR
Back Squat 5/5/5+
Bp/Op 5/5/5+
Muscle up 1x (2-3)
Pull ups 1x max reps (dead hang)
Dips 1x max reps

My numbers right now are
Squat 3x5 92.5kg
Bench 3x5 75 kg
Deadlift 1x6 117.5kg
Overhead Press 3x5 50kg
Pull ups: 1x12
Dips 1x16
Muscle up 4x1 (rest pause, with a slight jump to start the movement)

The problem I had was the only lift thats been consistently going up has been my deadlift. Which is kind of surprising seeing how little I actually deadlift.
My Squat went up to 90kg 2 months ago and has only gone up 2.5kg. I have since then worked on form and halved my rest periods from 3 minutes to 90 seconds, but seeing how I’m a beginner I cant believe I’m really seeing adequate progress.
Overhead press also has been going up VERY slow and I’ve had multiple sessions where I couldn’t even hit my previous weight 3x5.

What confuses is me is that I have not missed a single workout since I’ve started, I get at least 7 1/2 to 8 hours sleep a day and I’ve been trying to get protein in every meal.

I gained negligible weight on Starting Strength so I tried to put on some weight and went from 72k-80kg in about 3 months without putting on much if any extra fat. I presume I’m somewhere between 12-15% seeing how I can see all my abs flexed.
My goal would be to finally get some respectable numbers like a 2/3/4 plate on bench squat and deadlift, putting on a reasonable amount of muscle seeing how I’m rocking 14’ arms and 22’ thighs (lol), while preferably staying as close to as lean as I am right now as possible.

I’ve made a conscious effort to try to eat more, but I am confused how I am supposed to reach 1g protein per lb? That would put me at 180 g per day which irc is 900g of ham or 1500g low fat curd cheese or 32 large eggs. Every single day. If I had to estimate I eat approximately 70-80g protein per day.

Is this what is holding me back?
Or is it my training? I have kept that template for around the last 4 months without deviating from it and afterwards either left or did some arm work or tried some new exercises like muscle snatches or t-bar rows.

Now I figured it would be better to do something I know will work so Ive been doing 5/3/1 beginners template for 3 weeks now. Im using very conservative 1 Rep maxes with SQ 102kg/BP 78kg/120kg DL/52kg.

The thing is I have no Idea what kind of assistance work I should do. I like short sessions because they feel fast and and effective so I’m not really too fond of boring but big, and I’ve really grown to like pull ups, dips, muscle ups and recently muscle snatches.

Would something like this work ? And how should I program the muscle snatches/muscle ups/curls? :

Monday

Squat â?? 5/3/1 sets/reps
Bench â?? 55%x5, 65Ã?5%, 75%x5
Assistance work:
Pull ups : work up to 40
supersetting with
Dips : work up to 50

Wednesday

Deadlift â?? 5/3/1 sets/reps
Press â?? 5/3/1 sets/reps
Assistance work:
Muscle snatch (reps/sets ??)
Muscle ups (reps sets ??)
Curls (reps/sets ??)

Friday

Bench â?? 5/3/1 sets/reps
Squat â?? 55%x5, 65%x5, 75%x5
Assistance work:
Pull ups weighted : work up to 20 ( just recently started doing these and hit 1x10 with 10kg)
Dips weighted : work up to 30 ( same with these hit 1x12 with 12kg)

I would very much appreciate some help.

[quote]Nab wrote:
The problem I had was the only lift thats been consistently going up has been my deadlift. Which is kind of surprising seeing how little I actually deadlift.
My Squat went up to 90kg 2 months ago and has only gone up 2.5kg. I have since then worked on form and halved my rest periods from 3 minutes to 90 seconds, but seeing how I’m a beginner I cant believe I’m really seeing adequate progress.
Overhead press also has been going up VERY slow and I’ve had multiple sessions where I couldn’t even hit my previous weight 3x5.[/quote]

Right now, I’d just keep your rest periods as long as you need to recover. For squats, if that means you can recover in 90 seconds, great. If you need something more like 5 minutes, do that. Don’t wait too long though; as soon as you’re ready, lift.

Overhead Press goes up slow. This is normal.

One thing you need to work on is intensity in the gym. I’m sure you work hard. But you need to work harder. And any time you think you’re working hard enough… it’s time to push yourself even harder.

I wouldn’t say this is a “problem”, but it’s something worth working on.

[quote]Nab wrote:
I’ve made a conscious effort to try to eat more, but I am confused how I am supposed to reach 1g protein per lb? That would put me at 180 g per day which irc is 900g of ham or 1500g low fat curd cheese or 32 large eggs. Every single day. If I had to estimate I eat approximately 70-80g protein per day.

Is this what is holding me back?[/quote]

This is probably most of it. You’re just not getting enough calories in, nor enough protein.

You stalled out pretty early on Starting Strength, and if you were following the program pretty much to the letter, it’s not because of the training.

You’re right though, it does take a lot of food to get that protein in. Personally, milk is my tool of choice for getting in both protein and calories.

I’d suggest getting a tub of cheap protein powder from some store and drinking at least one shake a day for the next few weeks. I’d also suggest mixing it with milk, if your body handles milk fine. If your body handles milk fine, also drink a few glasses a day.

See how that works. If that helps, then you know for sure it’s the food and the protein.

This is just a fairly low-effort way to narrow down the problem. I wouldn’t suggest it as a long-term solution. For a more long-term solution, you’re going to need to find a way to get more meat/dairy/eggs into your diet.

Love milk!

Thanks for the reply, yea I can drink as much milk as I feel like. I’ll try to get in atleast atleast a couple of glasses a day with some cinnamon ( I think there was an article about that on this site how it temporarily increases insulin sensitivity - makes it taste better anyways)

But how do you measure working harder? I’ve had session that where hard (particularly grinding the last few reps on squats and deadlift) and had the sweat dripping off my forehead, and then there where session where I the last rep feels like it weighs a million pounds and I have to either dump it or grind like someone is pointing a gun to my head.

How can you make sure you dont get injured but keep the intensity as high as possible? How do you keep your form from going to hell when you try to 7 rep a 5 rep max? The last time I tried that on OP I almost crashed into the mirror behind the rack and recieved some ( justified) stupid looks. Rest pause it? Drop sets?

[quote]Nab wrote:
I gained negligible weight on Starting Strength so I tried to put on some weight and went from 72k-80kg in about 3 months without putting on much if any extra fat.[/quote]
Gaining 1-2 pounds a week for 3 months straight, for someone your height who’s also lifting hard, is on the low end. Significantly increase your calories to bump progress.


That’s three different goals - strength, size, and being lean. The best/most efficient path would be to push one of those to the forefront as the numero uno goal for the next few months, and then shift gears when you reach it.

Correct, but no one ever said you had to get all your protein from one type of food. A few egg with breakfast, maybe a shake in the late morning, some kind of meat with lunch, a workout shake, some meat with dinner. Boom. Target met.

This is 100% without a doubt why haven’t seen the strength or size progress you hoped for.

In these last 3 weeks, how much bodyweight have you gained?

[quote]Monday

A) Squat 5/3/1 sets/reps
B1) Bench 55%x5, 65%x5, 75%x5
B2) Pull ups 3x8-10
C1) Dips 3x10-15
C2) Pull-ups 3x8-10

Wednesday

A) Muscle snatch 3x2-4
B) Deadlift 5/3/1 sets/reps
C) Press 5/3/1 sets/reps
D) Pull ups weighted : 4x8-10
E) Dips weighted : 4x8-10

Friday

A) Bench 5/3/1 sets/reps
B) Squat 55%x5, 65%x5, 75%x5
C) Muscle-up 5x1
D1) Curl 4x8-12
D2) Random ab exercise 4x10-12
D3) Back extension 4x10-12[/quote]
Fixed. Just a suggestion.

By using more a little bit more weight or by doing a few more reps or by doing both, week after week. The strain you feel during a set isn’t always a reliable indicator of actually “working harder” because, like you mentioned, you never know when you’ll have an off day. The weekly progression (that turns into monthly progression) is what produces real results.

Let your brain, not your ego, dictate the weight used. Learn the difference between straining and grinding vs using crappy technique just for the sake of doing “more”.

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:

In these last 3 weeks, how much bodyweight have you gained?[/quote]

I havent gained any weight yet ( guess that basically confirms it’s undereating), actually might have gotten a bit leaner.

My lifts on the other hand have been going alot better:
5/3/8 SQ @ 85/90/95% of 102kg
3/3/9 DL @ 85/90/95% of 120kg
5/3/12 BP @ 85/90/95% of 78kg
5/3/7 @ 90/90/95% of 52kg (accidently used the wrong weight on one set)

All felt like I had 1 or 2 more in the tank and using wendlers 1 rep max formula this would put me at: 110kg SQ 94 kg BP (wtf?) 133kg DL and 54 kg OP

In retrospective, including the replies I’ve gotten, I think It’s pretty clear I just overtrained by under-recovering with food, seeing how (atleast theoretically) beat all my numbers by doing nothing but giving myself 2 weeks of lower training intensity.

I guess I just needed someone else to tell me what I should have already known.

I have consumed 90g of protein and about 800 calories since starting the thread so I hope Im doing it right now lol.

[quote]Monday

A) Squat 5/3/1 sets/reps
B1) Bench 55%x5, 65%x5, 75%x5
B2) Pull ups 3x8-10
C1) Dips 3x10-15
C2) Pull-ups 3x8-10

Wednesday

A) Muscle snatch 3x2-4
B) Deadlift 5/3/1 sets/reps
C) Press 5/3/1 sets/reps
D) Pull ups weighted : 4x8-10
E) Dips weighted : 4x8-10

Friday

A) Bench 5/3/1 sets/reps
B) Squat 55%x5, 65%x5, 75%x5
C) Muscle-up 5x1
D1) Curl 4x8-12
D2) Random ab exercise 4x10-12
D3) Back extension 4x10-12
Fixed. Just a suggestion.[/quote]

Thank you alot for this template! Now I have something fleshed out assistance wise to use tomorrow.

[quote]How can you make sure you dont get injured but keep the intensity as high as possible? How do you keep your form from going to hell when you try to 7 rep a 5 rep max?
Let your brain, not your ego, dictate the weight used. Learn the difference between straining and grinding vs using crappy technique just for the sake of doing “more”.[/quote]

[quote]Nab wrote:
I guess I just needed someone else to tell me what I should have already known.[/quote]
Pretty sure we’ve all been there at some point. No problem.

[quote]Nab wrote:
How can you make sure you dont get injured but keep the intensity as high as possible? How do you keep your form from going to hell when you try to 7 rep a 5 rep max? The last time I tried that on OP I almost crashed into the mirror behind the rack and recieved some ( justified) stupid looks. Rest pause it? Drop sets?[/quote]

There’s nowhere in the program that has you doing 5+ of a 5RM. I noticed you also said earlier that you used “conservative 1RMs” for your programming. I’m assuming you aren’t aware that you’re supposed to program 5/3/1 with a training max (90% of 1RM) because that makes a big difference, and might be a contributing factor to your form issues.

Also, if you’re wobbling around that much on the OHP you probably aren’t keeping your body tight enough.

I guarantee you can get 180 grams of protein in per day
Breakfast: 4 eggs and 1/4 cup of shredded cheese= 30 grams
Pre workout shake: 2 scoops whey= 50 grams
Lunch: any meat= 40 grams
Post workout: shake or meat: 40 grams
That’s 160 grams easily…add milk to your shakes and you’re pushing 200 grams.

[quote]Apoklyps wrote:

[quote]Nab wrote:
How can you make sure you dont get injured but keep the intensity as high as possible? How do you keep your form from going to hell when you try to 7 rep a 5 rep max? The last time I tried that on OP I almost crashed into the mirror behind the rack and recieved some ( justified) stupid looks. Rest pause it? Drop sets?[/quote]

There’s nowhere in the program that has you doing 5+ of a 5RM. I noticed you also said earlier that you used “conservative 1RMs” for your programming. I’m assuming you aren’t aware that you’re supposed to program 5/3/1 with a training max (90% of 1RM) because that makes a big difference, and might be a contributing factor to your form issues.

Also, if you’re wobbling around that much on the OHP you probably aren’t keeping your body tight enough.[/quote]

I was just referring to a particular instance I had where I tried to go for 7 reps at a weight I had previously done for 5 ( this was not on 5/3/1)

Also if im correct : 85% x 5+ is Set 3 in Week 1 which would have me going 5+ on the last set

With conservative 1 rep max I mean I used a 1 rep max calculator but used slightly lower numbers I then multiplied with 0.9.
Ex: 92.5kg 5 rep -> 107kg 1 rep max (rounded down to 102kg) x 0.9 = 91.8
I had never gone below 3 reps before this program so I didnt want to fuck myself over by taking my highest 5 rep max with possibly imperfect form and using that x 0.9 as my 1 rpm.
I know why wendler uses 0.9 of your 1 rep max to be careful and I was just being slightly more careful than that because I wanted to start with 100% NOT too high weights.

I havent had any form issues doing the the rep max sets this time around, (which I attribute to the weight I chose)

I guess its just a personal growth process realizing when you can push harder and when you should stop.

@ chobbs
Yea sure its definitely possible but I havent bought any shakes yet.

Yesterday looked like this:
1 can of tuna salad with 2 pieces of bread = 20g
4 glasses of milk = 26g
4 slices of ham : 20g
200g of chicken breasts stripes with tuna paste = 50g
Around 100g of almonds and peanuts = 26g
Random other stuff = ~ 20g

Which would be 162g which is almost where I want it, but my body apparently doesn’t like too much solid food so I might have to resort to shakes.

On a side note, I realized I have plenty of fish pills I could supplement with - the thing is I heard you need to take multiple a day? The package recommends one daily. It also has 90% daily vitamin E and I’ve heard bad things about taking multiple times the recommended dose of lipid-soluble vitamins.
(Im aware these wont make much of a difference,but im just genuinely interested)

I had struggle with eating enough when i started training but lately I’m doing fine so i just thought I’d drop my advice (for what it’s worth since I’m also a beginner).

Eating much is a habit, I started with forcing myself to eat the 250g of chicken breast for dinner, a few weeks later it feels normal. I took a shake before going to bed every night and now I can’t sleep unless i have it (even if I ate an hour before going to bed).

Once you start eating really much you will start gaining weight, and eventually fat. Don’t panic if you notice that your waistline has grown, for most people it’s inevitable when gaining strength and mass. At least I believe I do not look fatter gaining nearly 5kg in 5 weeks since it’s both muscle and fat.

And concerning the milk, try not to drink it while or directly after eating meat since it prevents the absorption of iron.

Alright, thanks for the advice.
Im sitting at 81.8kg atm and the weight has been fluctating pretty crazy but Im pretty confident im on the right track atm.

Tbh I feel like I could probably eat all day without getting fat because as soon as I dont cram food inside myself as if it was my job I eat nothing unless im hungry.
5kgs in 5 weeks are pretty good gains lets hope I can hit something similiar in the next 3 weeks :smiley:

Alright quick update and a question:

I’m up to 84kgs right now and my 31s are getting a bit tighter but overall don’t think I’ve become much fatter.

I’ve smashed my prs on all lifts except for the squat.
Bench especially seems to have profited from the higher reps, seeing how I got a 80x2 on my joker set last week.

I couldn’t hit my 3s week on the squat at 95kgs and only hit a double. I kind of feared this could happen seeing how squat performance seems a bit inconsistent for me.
A month prior to this I threw in an extra squat workout with deload percentages on wednesday to get in some more time under the bar in an attempt to remedy my inconsistency this, but hasnt seemed to help much with the 90/95% sets.
This means I am squatting 3x week MON: 531 reps sets WED: 3x3 @ 65-75-85 FRI 3x3 @ 65-75-85

I’m fairly sure my lower back/abs aren’t the problem since I don’t have much trouble staying upright.
My biggest problem is that I just cant seem to my legs tight going down into parallel/below and my speed during the bottom third is absolute shit as soon as I go above 75%.
If I have correctly identified the culprit as my hamstrings would throwing some leg curls in as assistance on my monday do the trick?

Ill try to maybe get a video up if that would help and Id be open to any kind of suggestions because I just cant believe I’m still not even close to a 1.5x bw squat after 10 months of training.