T Nation

5/3/1 for 5 Months, Have Hit a Wall. Advice?


#1

Info about me: 6'3'' 206lbs (arms are short-ish relative to my height and have long legs so to grab bar on deadlift I have to lean farther over the bar than I would like)

The 90% 1RM numbers I am using on my current cycle to calculate working set weights are below:
DL 412
Squat 327
Bench 275
Shoulder Press 169

I have been doing the 5/3/1 program for about 5 months now and have been working out for roughly 8 years. A couple different times during that time I lost significant progress that I made when working overseas and also when I was in a job where I did not work out very much (my own fault). I took all the advice and instructions to heart with this program and started out with a very modest 1RM for all lifts and have seen good progress overall. My squat has come furthest along, feels great, form is great, and am still hitting great numbers during my final sets of the every week. My bench has been improving slowly in some rep ranges as I strive to beat previous records (not always). Deadlift is progressing and was feeling great for the past few months however as the weights get heavier every cycle my form gets worse as I try to hit the numbers and try to beat my previous records. But shoulder press has seen the biggest wall yet. I couldn't do a single rep this week 3 of my cycle, it was too heavy and got stuck at the starting phase of the press.

I have a couple questions and hopefully someone has something to say that will help knock some sense into me or help me in some way.

1) If the weight gets too heavy (mostly just shoulder press/press has always been my weakest lift) as I progress, should I go down for next cycle/keep the same/train a different way for that lift to stimulate growth (i.e. do a cycle of band work or something to try to be able to push through that sticking point) or what? I am curious about what to do next.

2) If form starts to become compromised (deadlift/shoulder press), should I go down in weight for the next cycle(s) and focus on perfecting my form, should I change up my stance (i.e. sumo) that may be more advantageous for my height/limb length, or just stfu?

Also, I feel that some of my lifts on bench press, deadlift, and shoulder press are the same as they were before I started this cycle (i.e. my reps for 135 on shoulder press are slightly lower now than they were when I was doing a bodybuilding split with the same weight, and my bench press is about the same as it was then too). I am not saying it's the programs fault, I love it, the workouts feel great, I am just wondering if this is normal and not to worry about it.

Lastly, I know Jim Wendler mentions that the assistance work is just that, assistance and not to worry about it, which I haven't been. I just crank them out after the main lifts and try to keep the pace up, weights the same or a little bit heavier each cycle, and then go home. I definitely focus my energy on the main lifts, however I have noticed that some lifts (i.e. pullups/dips) have gotten weaker for whatever reason over time. I would like to stay strong in those lifts, what advice would you have for working on lifts like those? For example I have been doing 5x15 for dips and 5x10 for pullups for 5 months and have seen little progress in dips and cannot even do the pullup reps in five consecutive sets anymore. Before I was doing weighted versions for less reps but for me it translated into being able to more easily do the BW rep ranges of 10+ when I cycled back and forth. I feel like switching those up to do less reps would be looked down upon as part of this program. Any thoughts?

Thank you so much if you read this and I hope someone can help me out as no one that I know has any experience in this area. If I am completely incompetent and writing something stupid or something that doesn't make sense, I apologize in advance and admit that I am human and humbly accept your criticism. If not, I would appreciate your feedback!


#2

Basically, yes. It is standard in 5/3/1 to periodically reset the weights. Generally this is before you get to the point that you cannot complete the prescribed reps, but definitely when you are at the point that you cannot complete the prescribed reps (with appropriate form, etc.). 5/3/1 2nd Edition has a section on it, "Stalling in 5/3/1." No need for band work, changing exercises, or anything like that, just reset the weights and get back to it. Wendler commonly talks about "5 forward and 3 back," so you might want to just reset all of your weights back 3 cycles next time.

Regarding the progress, I would first note that, as Wendler highlights sometimes, we will often not have progress in everything at once. It seems like you are making good progress in some areas and in some rep ranges, so you should probably celebrate that and stay the course to keep those gains coming. The other lifts will have their time to shine later. That said, you might want to consider the templates you are using and maybe try one of the other 10,000 in the books, Wendler's website, this forum, etc., and whether or not you have everything else dialed in, such as sleep, nutrition, etc.


#3

That all makes fairly good sense.

Obviously using the five forward, three back approach would be fine.

You could also take a calculated max for each lift based on your current rep PRs and then use 90% of that for your new TM. I would also consider using a template that has more main lift volume like FSL or something; and try different assistance work just to see how it affects things.


#4

I solved my shoulder press problems by switching the standing military press to seated barbell press. It feels better, I feel a lot stronger that way and my standing press has gone up a lot as well.


#5

Stick to the 5/3 cycles. Forward/backward. You can't hit PRs forever. I'm hitting PRs every few cycles. Don't worry about not PRing every workout. If you feel like your regressing take a deload and start three cycles back. Maybe reset your TM at 85%. That's worked for me. You shouldn't stress over assistance but I wouldnt neglect it. I cycle intensities with assistance work. I always do same lift. Cycle of BBB, BBB challenge, then BBB variation 1 with first set. Then start over.


#6
  1. This is why we do 7th Week Protocol. You follow the rules this NEVER becomes an issue. Ever.
  2. I have no idea what this even means.

Assistance work - stay within the protocols and you'll be fine.


#7

I have thought about this as well however I want to get better at the standing press so I think I will use the 3 back idea and see how that goes. I may go this route afterwards otherwise. Thanks for the reply!


#8

Ok I will try the 5/3 cycle, thanks for replying! Keep up the good work yourself with your PRs!


#9

I may recalculate as you say after I try the 5/3 that you and others mentioned. I think I may try a variation to the triumvirate assistance that I have been using which is the 5x15 and 5x10 for every workout to mix it up. Any one in particular you like?


#10

Lots of great ideas here revchad, thank you! I will definitely try changing up the template I am currently using.