T Nation

5/3/1 Strength Phase - Doing Too Much


Jim, first off thanks for Beyond 5/3/1. I was at a point of major frustration with my upper body training. I'm not sure why my lower body seemed to respond well to other methods but my upper body strength digressed. Anyway, I've regained everything I lost in a short time with 5/3/1 and even surpassed that in some regards.

I am a little concerned that maybe I'm trying to do too much with my main work sets. I've been combining the Strength Phase (Page 15) along with Pyramids, Joker Sets, and First Set Last as Paused Reps. Recently, I read your article about the letter to yourself and the combining of two 5/3/1 main lifts into a session was very interesting to me because there are certain things I like to do as well as the bread and butter lifts.

Example Squat Day 3/3/3 day
A)5/3/1 Olympic Squat: 3 @ 70% / 3@80% / 3@90% / 1@TM / *** / 3+@90% / 3+@80% / 3+@70% or 3-5 Paused either way this last set is paused. The *** represents that I may do something different depending on how I feel. Some days I may just do the 1 @ TM, some days I will AMRAP the TM, or I will go for a Joker Set(s) and then Pyramid down.

Assistance: Depending on how I feel when I get back to 70% I may either do 3+ paused reps and then move on to assistance work, or do 3-5 paused sets @ 70% and superset with SLDL's. So it could be something like...
B1) Leg Press 5 x 10 / B2) SLDL's 5x10 or...
B1) Paused squats @ 70% 3-5 x 3-5 / B2 SLDL's 5x10
Ab work, something for about 50+ reps

  • Bench Day has become something like this...
    A1)5/3/1 Bench Press 3@70% / 3@80% / 3@90% / 1@TM / *** / 3+@90% / 3+@80% / 3+@70% or 3-5sets Paused
    A2) 5/3/1 Barbell Row (same as above)
    B) Incline Bench 2 x 15+ -minimum of 15 reps on the first set
    C1) Chin-ups 3-5 sets x max
    C2) Dips 3-5 x 10
    Lat Raises 5 x 6-12 reps

  • Deadlift Day
    A)5/3/1 Deadlift 3@70% / 3@80% / 3@90% / 1@TM / *** / 3+@90%
    B)5/3/1 Power Cleans 3@70% / 3@80% / 3@90% / 1@TM / *** / 3+@90%
    C1) Hip Bridges 5 x 10 (I wanted to try a posterior chain exercise that appears to put less stress on the lower back; as compared to GM's for instance).
    C2) Shrugs (DB or BB) 5 x 10

  • OHP Day
    A) 5/3/1 OHP 3@70% / 3@80% / 3@90% / 1@TM / *** / 3+@90% / 3+@80% / 3+@70% or 3-5sets Paused
    B) Neutral DB OHP 2 x 15+
    C1) Chin-ups 5 x max
    C2) Dips 5 x 10
    D) Tricep Pressdowns 5 x 6-12

I'm not sure if I'm setting myself up for failure here or not. So far so good and I've been tolerating the volume but I'm definitely beat when I leave the gym. Not that I care so much about that, just concerned about what this looks like long-term. I go in with a plan but I definitely adjust the main-set work depending on how I feel. Do I go for Joker sets, a single with just the TM, rep-out the TM, or what; it's often a game-time decision.

Also, I switched to a narrower squat stance because my hip flexors are just screaming for days after a regular squat session. I've hurt the right one a couple times and no matter how much rest I've take, foam rolled, stretched, and used a lacrosse ball it doesn't seem to matter. My Oly Squat is about 40lbs less than my regular squat but I'm not competing and don't plan on competing. I do this because I love it and I just want to get stronger and I feel like this will allow me to squat for a longer time, I'm currently 36 years old.

Part of me thinks that your SVR section might be better for me, but not sure. I've been doing well with this in the short-term. Sorry for the wall of text, thanks Jim. - Jason


Too much for a strength phase. IMO. Looks like your going for a kitchen sink approach. I used to do the same thing. You need to decide what you want out of your training. You said its working short term, how many cycles? whats your goal? how much progress have you made towards that goal?


Hard to say if that's too much assistance for you or not. I know that much would kill me and I would make no gains.


Just do this:

Press/Bench Press

Main lift - PR set, Jokers, FSL
1 exercise for upper back/lats
1 exercise for rotator cuff or rehab work (biceps/flys)


Main lift - PR set, Jokers, FSL
Back Raises

That's it. You are doing way too much and aren't focusing on getting stronger, rather you are focusing on the minutia that don't matter.


I just started my 4th cycle.

Bench: Get it back to 250 (short-term achieved) longer term get to 300
OHP: long-term 225. Initial: 160 / Current: 175 / Short-term 205
Olympic Squat: I just changed to this form, goal is to get to 365 in the short-term / 405 longer term
Deadlift: My goal was to hit 405 / Currently at 410 - I honestly haven't re-evaluated my goals for this lift yet.


Okay, sounds good. Thank yoU!


Jim, with the Big But Boring Variation 1 template, does it make sense to do FSL with that template since you're then doing 5 sets of 10 with the same weight that you would use for FSL?


Either pick FSL or BBB - please don't try to combine workouts.


Yeah, it didn't seem to make sense to me to do that but I figured I'd ask. Thanks Jim!


I started strength training with Rippetoes Starting strength, and made solid progress(squat 195x5x3 to 300x5x3). when I started stalling out I was stronger, and a little fatter. I switched to Wendlers 5/3/1, and against his advice made every programming mistake possible.( cutting calories while trying to get bigger and stronger, too much volume, too much conditioning, Id start with a decent program that i was making progress on, then id add to it until I was burnt out ).

BUT... I learned from it. It finally started to sink in after I got the new book and reread Jims article on the push and pull of training. For what its worth, this is what Ive been doing lately for my strength phase. Jim feel free to critique my version of your template.

5,s week
WARM UP: Jims Jump rope warm up or something like it. Bar x8 45% x5, 55% x3.
MAIN LIFT: 65% x5 75% x5 85%x5+ (shoot for 8) 90% x5 95% x3 75% x5 65% x5+ ( leave some in the tank)
SUPPLEMENTAL LIFT: 50% x10 60% x10 70% x10
ASSISTANCE WORK: I pick a bicep, tricep, lat, upper back, and shoulder movement on upper body days, and low back, 2 ab exercises, and hamstrings on lower body days 3x10 ( same weight all sets, the focus is quality movements, not weight for these. I do the same assistance lifts on both upper body days, I think it helps me make progress)

3's week
MAIN LIFT: 70% x3 80% x3 90% x3+ (shoot for 6) 95% x3 100% x2 80% x3 70% x3+ ( leave some in the tank)
SUPPLEMENTAL LIFT; 60% x8 70% x8 80% x6

Notes; this is pretty much the Simplest Strength Template from the 5/3/1 2nd edition book but... 1, Ive added joker sets because I found It helps to have more high% work on the main lift for strength. 2, I lift every other day and take 2 days off after all 4 lifts are done. I pyramid down for added volume. This template puts me right at my recovery limit.

If I were to do all 4 lifts in 1 week like the book says I wold probably get rid of a couple assistance lifts first, and maybe scrap the down pyramid if i wasn't making progress. 3 I do LIGHT cardio on off days( jog, airdine, weighted vest walk) 4, I don't do 1's week with this template Yet. I'm not a power lifter. I don't compete. I like these rep ranges for my goals and experience level. I do plan on adding the 1's week and lifting 4 days a week in the future. Right now this is working.


When I started doing 5/3/1, again, I didn't think I was doing too much accessory work and was actually concerned that I was doing too much volume on the main exercise work. But, I was wrong and that's fine. Since Jim host's this forum I figured I would ask and get his advice. I've definitely scaled back my assistance lifts to what he recommended.

I was making good progress as it was but after a deload, finishing cycle 3, and then getting into cycle 4 I could feel that my recovery wasn't good and something needed a change. I'm definitely more concerned about getting stronger in the main lifts, so I wanted to make sure that I was setting myself up to do that. Thankfully Jim weighed and helped me re-focus on what's important.


Jim, what about doing FSL or Jokers with BBB Temp 2? I mean it's possible, but from what I can tell you came up with FSL and Jokers for programming in lieu of BBB right?


BBB variation II uses the same %, albeit 5 reps, but I would say his answer still applies.


Right on, Just trying to help. I like the programming aspect almost as much as the lifting. I was hoping Jim wold weigh in on my version of his template and maybe make it stronger, maybe I overlooked something? Always willing to learn from some one that knows more. I'm not sure but maybe I took to much liberty with his system, Ive read a thousand times don't bastardize the system , call it 5/3/1, then complain when it doesn't work.

I should probably put a disclaimer. THIS IS NOT 5/3/1 these are modifications I made without Jims consent to fit my specific training needs. I cannot recommend that anyone else make these changes as I am not a certified trainer, and it it not my system to change. What I CAN tell you is... You would be best served by buying Jims books and using his templates. Between 5/3/1 2nd edition, 5/3/1 For Power lifters, and Beyond 5/3/1 you have all the info you need to get started and progress for years to come. Weather you plan on Competing or just want to get Fucking strong 5/3/1 will get you there.


Nah that's Temp 2, Var 2... which is what I'm doing actually and it's awesome :wink:

Temp 2 just trades "Bench 5/3/1 w/ Bench BBB", for "Bench 5/3/1 w/ Press BBB", "DL 5/3/1 w/ DL BBB" with "DL 5/3/1 w/ Squat BBB", etc... it staggers the two upper and two lower body lifts.


Yeah for sure, I appreciate the feedback from you. I actually have each 5/3/1 book except the Power Lifting version, but with Beyond 5/3/1 it's such a complete book that I don't think I need to go buy it. I started off with 5/3/1 again after I bought the Beyond book and I was really focused and doing great, got all my lifts back up in a hurry, it was almost crazy. I was almost concerned that maybe my clinic was dosing my TRT too high or something. LOL! Of course, I couldn't just keep it simple and had to add stuff to it. It's awesome that Jim has this forum and replies to pretty much everybody. His super-direct approach is great and helped me reign-myself back-in and re-focus my training.


Oh that's what you meant. It's possible, seems reasonable since it's opposite movements. Jim is probably shaking his head right now after reading this. Probably saying something like, quit over-thinking this shit and trying to do too much, just bust your ass, sprint, eat, sleep. LOL


Exactly. Not trying to make it complicated, but doesn't seem like too much at all, and I like the idea behind FSL (volume) and Jokers. Would be nice to incorporate them if it makes any practical sense from a programming perspective.

So Jim, if you could weigh in of course I would appreciate it. I just don't have enough experience to figure out programming like this for myself.