T Nation

5/3/1 for Women?


#1

I have a couple students - 18 year old freshmen - who came to my office yesterday. Rather than wanting to discuss the previous day's lecture on satire and Huck Finn, the guy and girl wanted to know my workout plan. Long story, short, is that she's a slender, athletic girl and she wants to lift heavy and "get buff" but the programs in Women's Health and on Pinterest aren't cutting it. He's athletic looking but not muscular. Same goals. They both say they lift regularly with DBs and BBs, just not with heavy weight.

I suggested they consider buying the revised 5/3/1 and starting out with a very basic program to learn the movements. I also said they should find someone (who isn't also their lit professor) who knows what they're doing around weights and to make sure she learns correct form.

After class this morning, the girl had a new question: whether this program was okay for females to follow. I'm not about to start making up answers, so I'll ask here:

Is 5/3/1 appropriate for women?

I honestly have no time, desire, or right to coach anyone. The entire purpose of following Jim is that I get to lift like an expert without having to be one. I don't mind being helpful, but if 5/3/1 will work for her, I'd feel better telling her to read the books, start out slow and low, and then send her on her way to sink or swim.


#2

Yes, it’s fine. Women can run the same programs as men. I’ve run it using FBT and with SST (both the original and then with 5s pro.) The only difference I can think of is that I use a lighter bar because my OHP is low enough that I need less than 45 lbs for warm up sets. I also use 2.5 lb progressions for upper body, 5 for squat, and 10 for deadlift.


#3

[quote]MarianTL wrote:
Yes, it’s fine. Women can run the same programs as men.[/quote]

^this. The only thing I would add is that if they’ve only ever lifted ‘not heavy’ then it might be that for a while they could get away with more aggressive progression than 5/3/1 offers. You only get one shot at capitalising on newbie gains. Piss it away and you don’t get that time back.

I’m not suggesting that running 5/3/1 is ‘pissing away’ that good growth period, I just think that it’s only one of many solid options for inexperienced lifters.


#4

[quote]TheWolfMan wrote:

[quote]MarianTL wrote:
Yes, it’s fine. Women can run the same programs as men.[/quote]

^this. The only thing I would add is that if they’ve only ever lifted ‘not heavy’ then it might be that for a while they could get away with more aggressive progression than 5/3/1 offers. You only get one shot at capitalising on newbie gains. Piss it away and you don’t get that time back.

I’m not suggesting that running 5/3/1 is ‘pissing away’ that good growth period, I just think that it’s only one of many solid options for inexperienced lifters. [/quote]

Yes x1000.


#5

Direct them towards Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength book. Absolutely the best book out there for teaching novices.


#6

Yes, it is. The big thing we do is:

  1. Use same TM for many of the lifts for 3 or more cycles, using very small plates to add on (1/4, etc) that allows them to progress very slowly.
  2. Have them do “girl” stuff after the main work (jumps/main lift/supplemental) to appease them. It’s like giving an athlete time to do curls - it’s called being a good coach.

I won’t touch the myth of “new lifter” gains or why rushing to put weight on the bar is ignorant. If you believe it is imperative to take a young, untrained lifter, add weight as fast as you can to his squat - that is your take on lifting. We have a plan that involves strengthening the entire body in a systematic way. And it involves a lot more than a deadlift. I have discussed this many times and it’s not magic but I can assure you, I have worked with too many young athletes to think “It’s high time we load that spine as fast as possible, as heavy as possible. Seems like a fucking great idea.”

Use your head! I should run high school kid camps here where these kids can learn to tune out the static.


#7

Thanks for the input. I honestly don’t know what their expectations are… they’re both just fresh-to-college kids who (I imagine) are still picturing people on Pinterest and whatever magazine they see when they think about their goals. I will tell them to buy Jim’s book and to perhaps find someone who can work with them on form. I’ve heard of Starting Strength, but I have never read it. I’ll mention it to them, too, if it’s a good resource. I should probably also tell them to not try to mix the two approaches.

Honestly, since I’m their lit professor, I don’t want to cross a liability line, so I’m planning to limit myself to that and to advising them to move slowly and progress sensibly. Neither one of them is very big, so I could see them trying to deadlift 2x their bodyweight this December and coming to final exams with a cane or something. Whether they follow expert advice in those books is up to them. I’ll pass along your advice about jumps and such, Jim.


#8

[quote]JoshRutherford wrote:
Thanks for the input. I honestly don’t know what their expectations are… they’re both just fresh-to-college kids who (I imagine) are still picturing people on Pinterest and whatever magazine they see when they think about their goals. I will tell them to buy Jim’s book and to perhaps find someone who can work with them on form. I’ve heard of Starting Strength, but I have never read it. I’ll mention it to them, too, if it’s a good resource. I should probably also tell them to not try to mix the two approaches.

Honestly, since I’m their lit professor, I don’t want to cross a liability line, so I’m planning to limit myself to that and to advising them to move slowly and progress sensibly. Neither one of them is very big, so I could see them trying to deadlift 2x their bodyweight this December and coming to final exams with a cane or something. Whether they follow expert advice in those books is up to them. I’ll pass along your advice about jumps and such, Jim.[/quote]

You are setting a great example - and this is something many of us, including myself struggle with. Knowing when to delegate a duty to someone else or knowing when you don’t know something, and admitting it. I see a lot of unqualified experts giving advice on rehab.

Not everyone is qualified to give a good opinion.


#9

I just saw that you posted a more extensive discussion of the topic. I’m about to head to lecture, so I’ll share that post with the young lady. Thanks for taking the time to make some extensive feedback. I hope it has an impact in their lives.


#10

Jim - could you expand a little more on why you think newbie gains is a myth?

I can understand that there is at least one good reason why you would say that adding weight to the bar at all costs is a bad idea - clearly this shouldn’t happen at the expense of good form, but I understood that to be implicit in what I said. Is that all you meant, or does it run deeper than that?

Thanks for your time.


#11

[quote]TheWolfMan wrote:
Jim - could you expand a little more on why you think newbie gains is a myth?

I can understand that there is at least one good reason why you would say that adding weight to the bar at all costs is a bad idea - clearly this shouldn’t happen at the expense of good form, but I understood that to be implicit in what I said. Is that all you meant, or does it run deeper than that?

Thanks for your time.[/quote]

It is a myth, in so far that there is some kind of time table for someone to make gains and magically, as if by the internet lifting god, they are gone. It doesn’t work like that and it never has.

The people that perpetrate this idea are doing everyone a huge disservice and really, if you want to be dramatic about it, completely fucking up training by ignoring the physiological needs and the mental learning curve of programming/training as well as emotional/physical maturity.

While I understand someone wanting to “get shredded in 8 weeks” and can accept that turds “cut/bulk” or whatever Top 40 style of training is in for them this week - I can’t accept them as part of any serious discussion with people who give a shit.

Again, as I like to say, you asked for my opinion and there it is. I’m sure most people disagree with me but luckily:

  1. I am ok with that.
  2. You aren’t being trained by me, so it shouldn’t matter to you.

I’ve have worked with enough people in my life to understand that training is much bigger than squats and deadlifts and jogging. If that’s all people want it to be, than that’s cool too. It akin to Amon Amarth, Lamb of God and The Black Dahlia Murder - it that is what people think passes as extreme music or heavy metal: that’s fine for them but not for me.


#12

Appreciate the wisdom Jim!

How do you draw the line between taking the long road and being a lifer on lifts vs. being a pussy in the weight room?

I’m guessing if a lifter doesn’t pile on the weight, or go for a rep PR, they should be lifting aggressively with great bar speed.


#13

[quote]jdm80 wrote:
Appreciate the wisdom Jim! [/quote]

Seconded. I may not be being trained by you, but I’ve read enough of your material to have worked out that you’ve been in this game considerably longer than I have and you know your shit, so I definitely value your take on these things.


#14

[quote]jdm80 wrote:
Appreciate the wisdom Jim!

How do you draw the line between taking the long road and being a lifer on lifts vs. being a pussy in the weight room?

I’m guessing if a lifter doesn’t pile on the weight, or go for a rep PR, they should be lifting aggressively with great bar speed. [/quote]

We do this:

Challenges Periodically
Balanced training plan (involving all facets)
Train with PURPOSE
Daily goals in all areas of life (also, have what I call “Mt. Everest Goals” in training and never let the dogma/trends inhibit you.)

People somehow equate “on the floor, dead” to being successful. You can have that. I’ll train hard, train smart and train forever. Evolution is paramount in life - remaining stagnant, stuck in past, honoring dead ideas is the opposite of my life philosophy. Yes, that sounds dramatic but training is not just “part of my life” it is how I learned a great many lessons.

More importantly, never be concerned about the notion of “being a pussy” or “being a man”, at least in the eyes of a fickle, weak public. You define who/how you are but don’t think you can hide behind a veiled definition to support your unwillingness to change/challenge.