T Nation

5/3/1 Progress Stalling or Going Backwards

Man, 35 sure sounds young to this 52 year old. :slight_smile: First post, long time lurker.

I’ve been doing 5/3/1 for about 6 months now, using the Vandersoft app to plan and track my workouts. This cycle (currently in week 2), I’m about 2 reps weaker than I was in early December. That’s pretty much across the board - press/deads/bench/squat, where I’d hit say 10 reps then, I only got 8 this cycle with the same weight.

What changed that I can maybe attribute the difference to? I cycled off creatine (started again this weekend), and I did the last set first variation instead of my usual “big muscles” for assistance/extra work. Not sure if either of those matter.

Maybe it’s just a rut, and the next week will show improvement. Progress has been fairly steady otherwise, though not always PRs every workout. So I’m wondering about my next cycle, should I just keep increasing my cycle weight or should I back it off to where I was in early December? Or maybe even the one before that?

My goal is general strength, but I’d really like to do a real powerlifting meet at some point, just to say I did it.

Thanks for any suggestions!

Check that thread from last year. It has multiple answers already.

Good and common question! I’m approaching the same thing in my program. Welcome to the forum :sunglasses:

Good info there JMaier, thanks! I’ve read three of Jim’s books, but don’t remember reading about stalling or the “5 forward/3 back” bit. That sounds like what I need to do. I’m on my 8th cycle now, so I guess I’m due to step it back. After I finish this cycle next week, I’ll back three cycles and go from there. I’ll also go back to the books and read the full details of the stall. Appreciate the reply.


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Also, get rid of the app.

They are riding off the coattails of other people that actually do the work.

Not enough calories might also be a factor.

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Way too many variables - eat, recover or you may have to do another program that you believe in.
I’m assuming you have changed your exact program every 6 weeks and have used exactly an 85-90% TM for EVERY SINGLE program. If you can’t hit 5 strong reps with your final set on your “5/3/1” week, you are not using the program the correct way.

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Thanks for the reply Jim. I do believe in the program, that’s why I’ve been doing it for 8 months/cycles now, and progress has overall been trending upwards (increased PRs). Not sure what you mean by “changed your exact program every 6 weeks”? I’ve been doing 3 weeks of 5/3/1 with a one week deload. Hitting 5 reps on the last set wouldn’t be a problem, but I’ve been trying to go for a PR on the last set of every workout. Is that wrong? I’ve got records of all my workouts, so I know that a weight I could do for 12 reps in early December, I can only do 10 reps now. And that 2 rep decrease is across the board for all four major lifts, and regardles of the real number of reps (maybe a decrease from 14 to 12, etc.)


I would then change the program:

2 cycles of 5’s PRO, BBB
1 cycle of PR’s, 3-5x5 FSL

Test TM’s - make sure you can hit 5+ reps on 5/3/1 day

2 cycles of 5’s PRO, BBs
1 cycle of PR’s, 3-5x5 FSL

Test again

2 cycles of 5’s PRO, SSL
1 cycle of PR’s, 3-5x5 FSL

And so on. Make sure you are doing the correct assistance work for each day (3 categories) and you are running/biking or whatever you do for aerobic work.


Thanks, I’ve gone back to the book to review some of that. So “5’s PRO” is the “5’s Progressive”, or basically 3x5 for all the main lifts at the book %ages, no PR attempts, and the BBB for extra work. That’s two months/cycles. Then a cycle/month of “regular” 5/3/1 where I’m trying for PR’s on the 3rd sets, with First Set Last as the additional work? Just being sure, really appreciate the feedback.


Just in case I’m overthinking this… There are 3 cycles, then a TM test, then it repeats. Does that mean between each 5’s PRO, BBB and between the 5’s PRO, BBB & the PR’s, 3-5x5 FSL that the TM goes up 2.5kg / 5kg? The TM test is to confirm we’re using the right TM for the start of the next 3 cycles

One cycle (3 weeks or 4 weeks depending on how you program) up TM
One cycle up TM
7’th week deload
One cycle
7’th week test
Then depending on the test you start your new program with the apropriate TM.
Meaning if you get at least 5 solid reps with the TM you can up the TM for the next cycle, if not. Recalcute

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Thank you!