T Nation

5/3/1 Questions

[Note: Changed the title to keep my questions in one spot and not open more threads]

Brief Bio… I’m a 45 y/o, 5’6" 300 lbs former state-level powerlifter and just getting back into the gym to drop weight, gain strength and mobility. I’ve been using 5/3/1 for 6 months with very low training max to start with. I’ve been keeping with +5/+10 per cycle for the main lifts as prescribed in 5/3/1.

Current Training Maxes
Squat: 250
Bench: 185
Deadlift: 250
Press: 125

Current 1RM (Yeah, went a little crazy with the Joker Sets)
Squat: 315
Bench: 275
Deadlift: 315
Press: 155

@ <200 lbs body weight
Squat: 550
Bench: 405 (Most important goal, the rest are afterthoughts really)
Deadlift: 550
Press: 275

My current plan (based on a previous post and comments from Jim) is as follows…

BBB - Two Cycles

SSL - Two Cycles

Spinal Tap - Two Cycles

… then back to BBB

By my calculations Spinal Tap will add 30-60 pounds on my TMs in 2 months. My questions are…

  1. Has anyone here done Spinal Tap? One Cycle? Two Cycles? Did you deload at 4th week or 7th week?

  2. Is it too soon for me to think about Spinal Tap? Should I stick with the BBB/SSL rotation for another year and see where I am?

Thanks in advance.

… looking a little deeper into the forums I found the following…

  1. One or two cycles doesn’t seem matter. Either works.

  2. If doing Spinal Tap you’ll probably have to go 5 up/3 down to not get over loaded.

  3. As a novice lifter K.I.S.S, keep it simple stupid. Probably better to stick with BBB/SSL rotation until I stop making progress. Then consider altering the plan.

  4. Taking it slow will reduce the chance of injury and will still allow progress in strength, muscle mass, and fat loss.

… am I getting warmer?

Next Questions…

For assistance work (DB Bench Press for example) should there be warm-up sets or jump straight to the work sets? Also, should all 5 sets be at the same weight or ramp the weight up.

Can Incline Bench Press be considered a Supplementary Exercise for the Overhead Press or for the Bench Press… or either? As stated above, I’m cycling BBB and SSL and currently using Close-Grip BP for my Bench and Incline BP for my OHP.

My pull-ups are woefully bad. I have access to a assisted pull-up/dip machine. Any suggestions on how to speed progress?

Again, any help is appreciated…

Assistance work should be done at weights that you can jump right in with after your general warmup. If you superset with your main lift, you should be able to do a given weight on your assistance exercises throughout the workout. You shouldn’t be exhausted or drained from assistance work, or you’re doing it wrong. [quote=“gelk, post:3, topic:230961”]
Can Incline Bench Press be considered a Supplementary Exercise for the Overhead Press or for the Bench Press… or either?

Usually, the supplement is the same as the main lift. Just done at a given percentage that is constant for a fixed number of reps and sets. You can substitute, but I would suggest for most people to use the same lift.[quote=“gelk, post:3, topic:230961”]
My pull-ups are woefully bad. I have access to a assisted pull-up/dip machine. Any suggestions on how to speed progress?

You should be able to do 10 pull ups with bodyweight minimum as a baseline fitness and strength level. Not being able to do so suggests you are either overweight, pretty weak, or both. I would make this a priority by doing multiple sets of whatever number you can do often, to get the volume up.


I’ve been back to the gym for only 6 months. I’ve dropped about 12% of my body weight in that time but I’m still about 300 lbs so I still have quite a way to go. My body weight goal is 180-200.

Thanks for the input. I’ll make the suggested changes and double my pull-up volume.

Another question that came to mind… I’m currently doing Sumo DLs with a hybrid pulling stance. Should I work in Conventional DLs or use Romanian DLs and Hyper-extensions to build lower back strength?

All of these questions are answered in the book - I’m assuming you never read it?
There is a reason I write these books - to help people get stronger. i would highly advise you to read it IF you want to get stronger and become better.

Jim, thanks for the reply. I have read the your books, borrowed from friends. I’m planning on getting 5/3/1 and Forever next payday.

I understand the vision of 5/3/1, but had questions about some of the details. For instance, I didn’t see Conventional vs. Sumo addressed in 5/3/1. I’ll re-read the book when I get another copy.

By way of a testimonial, I’ve been running 5/3/1 for 6 months, dropped 40 pounds of body weight, and have hit the following 1RMs…

Bench: 275 @ 175 TM
Squat: 315 @ 235 TM
Shoulder Press: 155 @ 115 TM
Deadlift: 315 @ 235 TM

I’ve done 6 complete cycles, I’ll have 7 more done by Dec 31st. Can’t wait to see where I am at that time.

Very impressive gains! Don’t get too far ahead of yourself and try to manipulate the TM for any new strength gains. What you are doing is working and by playing “The TM Game” in a smart, principled fashion, you will continue to make progress.

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I’d say stick with whatever feels right.
As far as I’ve read deadlift choice is often determined by your build / leverages AND your feel.

I happen to be a ‘long femurs, t-rex arms’ guy, and found a semi-sumo (sometimes called squat stance) deadlift best for me.

Anyway, I wouldn’t force myself to use a variation which feels awkward, gives me pain or discomfort.

Hope this helps a bit.

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Joe, you described me to a T. Thanks for your recommendations. I’m going to step up my weighted back hyper-extensions and start doing Romanian Deadlifts to add more glute and hamstring work.