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5/3/1: Stalling on Upper body workouts. Am I pushing too hard on One Rep Maxes?

Hey guys,

I have been trying 5/3/1 for a month and a half now. Here are my training maxes this month (month 2):

Press 90
Bench 159

Progress on the lower body workouts have been steady. However, I am already stalling on both the Upper body workouts. Here are my 1 rep maxes calculated using the formula in the 5/3/1 book.

Bench Press

week 1- 164
week 2- 167
week 3- 174
week 4- Deload
week 5- 180
week 6- 183

Military Press

1 - 88
2 - 94
3 - 101
4- Deload
5 - 102
6 - TBD

Gains in the first month were decent. Whatever reps I did, I did with proper form.

Month 2, however, has been difficult. My military press has only gone up 1 lb. As for the bench press, my form has not been good for half of the reps. So, in a way I am cheating. My actual 1 rep max might be lower.

My assistance exercise on Bench days is Incline DB or Bench Press ( 3 sets as prescribed in the “Simplest Strength Template”. On military press days, I do 5 sets of 10 dips (50 total). In addition I do 50 reps of pullups/chin ups on each upper body day.

As you can see my current 1 rep max is considerably higher than my Training Max. Is that normal. Or should I try and keep it closer to the Training max for the month? Jim suggests that you step and use 90% of your new 1 Rep max as your training max.

Does that mean I do more reps with a lower weight and still make progress on the 1RM? Or do I ignore my current 1 rep max and shoot for a slightly lower 1 rep max? Please advise, guys. Would really appreciate it.

How can you possibly be stalling when you haven’t even gone through 2 cycles of the program yet? You haven’t even come back around to the same weeks all the way through. Also, you list your training max as 159 but then list the weights you are lifting which are ALL higher than that number… which is impossible if you are using numbers below 100%… which is what this program does.

I suspect you are NOT running the program correctly. You need to find your 1RM, as in TEST it by either working up to it or working up to a 3RM and using the formula to figure it out.

THEN you use 90% of that number to base the program on. For example:

REAL Bench Press 1 RM = 240, TRAINING MAX = 90% of that, so 215. You base the percentages off 215, the program looks like this for the first month:

Week 1 = 140x5, 160x5, 185x5+
Week 2 = 150x3, 175x3, 195x3+
Week 3 = 160x5, 185x3, 205x1+

The following month, you increase the training max by 5 pounds and repeat the cycle (which looks exactly like above, except 5 pounds heavier on all the lifts basically).

If you just look at the Max Reps set it should look something like this every week

185x5, 195x3, 205x1
190x5, 200x3, 210x1
195x5, 205x3, 215x1
200x5, 210x3, 220x1

You see how it waves? Your numbers above are not doing that, you are doing something wrong.

Doing this, it should take you MONTHS before you come back around to hitting 240, which was our hypothetical old REAL 1RM. By that time you should be hitting it for 3-5 hopefully.

Lonnie123, Appreciate the response… The book says try and set a new 1RM/PR every week. Maybe I misunderstood this. Am I setting a new PR every week compared to the corresponding week in the previous cycle? If so, what you are saying makes sense. Am I right?

[quote]nirvem wrote:
Lonnie123, Appreciate the response… The book says try and set a new 1RM/PR every week. Maybe I misunderstood this. Am I setting a new PR every week compared to the corresponding week in the previous cycle? If so, what you are saying makes sense. Am I right?[/quote]

I am in the mood for helping so here goes. 531 is a program that is really considered an intermediate level program. I think you should look into starting strength to be honest. 531 will probably work however if you are dead set on using it. The vanilla program is you have two sets and an amrap set for each lift each week. You aren’t trying to set a new 1rm each week. What you are trying to do is set rep records on that last set each week. If you hit the minimum amount of reps each week you increase the weight 5 pounds for upper body 10 pounds for lower body. You could do more or less for instance you could go up 15-20 pounds if your really hitting a lot of reps over the minimum amount or even 2.5 pounds for upper and 5 pounds for lower if you are really grinding the reps out. Start off by getting a 1rm and then you take 90% of that number, this will be your training max for the 4 week cycle. You actually don’t even have to take a deload week especially when you are so green at lifting. Yes 531 is a slow burn program and many people feel that the vanilla 531 is simply not enough volume on the lifts to work. Here is a recent version that seems to ork better. I hope this doesn’t confuse you,
I finish the 3 work sets, the last being an AMRAP, doing up to 3 heavier singles, then repeating the 3 works sets backwards and making the last set, which was the first set, another AMRAP.

For example…

65% x 5
75% x 5
85% x 5 +
90% x 1
90% x 1
90% x 1
85% x 5
75% x 5
65% x 5 +

You can do the singles before your 531 sets and they don’t have to be 90% every time you can vary the percent here you could even try for a 1rm.

Once again I would really take a look at starting strength and I feel you would be better off. If you didn’t want to do starting strength you could do stronglifts there’s also several other linear progression novice programs. If you have any questions feel free to ask.

Nirvem you have totally misunderstood the program. I suggest you read it through a few times and get a good understanding of it then start it over again.

For starters you don’t take 1 rep maxes every week. In fact you don’t take them at all except for when you first start out. From there you take 90% of that and that is your training max. ALL future weights are based off this training max.

This training max only alters when you start your next cycle but you don’t re test it you just add 10 pounds to lower body and 5 pounds to upper.

When Jim talks about going for rep maxes he is referring to hitting the prescribed weight for as many reps as you can do with good form. The weight stays the same it’s just that on days when you are feeling extra strong you go for more reps.

In the first 2 months the weights are so light you should be hitting reps up around 8 to 12 depending on which week your on and even on 531 week you can often get 8. I actually found the beginning of the program just too easy so it’s really impossible for you to stall.

Like i said read the book again a few times and try and get a basic understanding of what it’s all about.

[quote]nirvem wrote:
Lonnie123, Appreciate the response… The book says try and set a new 1RM/PR every week. Maybe I misunderstood this. Am I setting a new PR every week compared to the corresponding week in the previous cycle? If so, what you are saying makes sense. Am I right?[/quote]

You have WILDLY misunderstood the program if that is what you got out of it. You most certainly do NOT attempt a new 1RM every week… You literally wont be lifting your 1RM again for 6-8 months once you begin the program.

What you are attempting to set every week is Repetition PR’S… For example, lets say on cycle 1 your 5/3/1 weight for Bench is 185, and you hit is 7 times. When you come back around to that weight again (usually on 3’s week the next cycle, then 5’s week the following) your goal is to beat that number.