T Nation

5/3/1 with Unreasonable Head Football Coach. Maxing Every 6wks?


Jim- Very grateful for your programming and wisdom. I’m a strength coach at a small private high school. I’ve always used 5/3/1 with my kids. Those who have committed have truly thrived.

All has been great.

However, I’m in the middle of a new head football coach transition. We’ve met and I’ve explained my beliefs on training to the best of my ability. He is absolutely dead set on maxing the kids every 6 weeks. I’m not at the point in my career where I can just find greener grass, so I’m going to have to bite the bullet.

My question is, in your opinion, is the base 5/3/1 program ideal for maxing every 6 weeks? If not, do you have any suggestions? Our off-season will consist of training 4 days per week. I’d appreciate any insight. Thanks.


When you say “Max” do you mean 1RM or a rep max?


1 rep max. He wants to “see the progress”


What a shitbag. Whatever you have been doing, and has been working for you AND you feel comfortable with - keep doing it. The only real piece of advice is to have the kids “sandbag” their 1RM’s. Or at least make sure the 1RM is done really fast (or whatever you want for criteria). The bench press is going to give you the biggest headache with young athletes as progress stalls hard…and well, I don’t need to tell you the why’s of this, it’s common sense.

The bottom line is I would never change the training for testing. This is similar to the NFL combine test or the new standarized testing that is all over schools - teaching for the test (or training for the test) does not mean the athlete/student gets any better.

You should probably explain this, albeit very delicately, to your athletes and what/how you are going to be doing this. At the end of the day, this new coach might be a good football coach but he’s an absolute idiot regarding training. I won’t even say “ignorant” because he’s of voting age, thus he’s stupid.

Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions. Keep it simple and keep it balanced.


Would the new coach give any on the 6 week requirement? Although not perfect would it be possible to change it to coincide with your programming? If so every second cycle Jokers could be added to the 5/3/1 week working up to a "max’. if your programming is based on the 6 week training cycle from Beyond 5/3/1 the max would be done every 7 weeks. This is not perfect for training purposes but it may be a way to keep the coach happy.


Thanks for the reply. 1RM testing every 6 weeks just completely undermines the “process” culture I’ve tried to establish. I have thought about the bar speed idea on the maxes. I still don’t count ugly grinder reps on rep max sets which does piss the kids off. I appreciate the advice.

Guess it’s time to bring out the fractional plates!


You think the new coach would listen to the idea of using the 5+, 3+, 1+ (or wherever you are every 6 weeks or so) with number of “real” reps actually performed? Then use that to calculate a 1RM using Jim’s formula? Obviously this would show progress and give him a 1RM number to put on his clipboard.


a few years ago while an asst varsity football coach-the hockey team approached me and asked if I would train them for 12 weeks thru the summer into late fall tryouts using "my training ideas that I had used on my wife a world champion in the highland games " I explained that they werent my ideas but instead Jims 5/3/1…told the coach I would have a formal sitdown with him and the captains of the team…the coach thought I was going to haggle for money(really wasnt going to charge…love seeing the kids excel and had coached kids sports-middle and high school for 12 years after leaving NYPD…

my sit down was to have the kids buy into the program 100%…the coach had a strength coach in the past that was obsessed with 1rm…once they were onboard we set up a schedule and started EOD lifting using a straight 5/3/1 protocol with conditioning at the end…we did a few days of intro and instructioin into the correct form on the big 4…these kids were bummed when told that I wouldnt be letting them max out every workout…we tested in the beginning and went to 3-5rm and adjusted it from their…took a few weeks for the kids to hit on all cylinders and at the end of 12 weeks 21 athletes(had 19-20 at every session) had put on substantial weight and we had the whole hockey team on the leader board in the weight room much to the chagrin of the football team and my head coach…

had 148lber squat 485,165 & 181er hit 505 squat…all other lifts excelled and each athlete went up min of 25 lbs in the OHP…the team had ranked top 4 for the last 5 years in the state,first year we finished 2nd in playoffs and 2nd year we won the first state title in over 20 years…the coach thanked me up and down for my slow and steady program that got athletes strong,conditioned,healthy,and not injured!Truly was one of my most satisfying times/gigs…we had myself,my wife,and a strongman friend with 20 kids and we formed a unique bond…was quite honored when at our awards dinner they called the 3 of us up and presented us with NYS State championship rings…nice touch kids…pS 5 of those kids play college hockey and still use 5/3/1 when they are away from their college programs and call me over breaks to train great system to use on young kids


Great story, thanks for sharing.


Just an update, but first 4 weeks have been great. I had a sit down with the HFC to express my concerns, and fortunately, I was able to get him to buy in to the idea of going for rep maxes every 7-8 weeks (which would just be the 5/3/1+ week).

I would like to get your thoughts on the template I’ve been using. Kids have absolutely loved the offseason training thus far. In-season (basketball) kids are still following the standard 5/3/1 protocol, but I am using your hardgainer template for our football guys b/c I feel it fits our off-season (non- basketball) athletes’ goals much better.

Keep in mind I coach at a very small private school that is in an absolutely brutal region so gaining size and strength is my #1 priority. We looked like a JV playing Varsity kids most of the year. We have 5 combined juniors and seniors, so I definitely feel the responsibility of putting size on our kids, as a lot of our freshman will be starting. Absolutely not an excuse at all, just wanted to give you some background.

Would you recommend the hardgainer program for my situation? Or should I stick with 5/3/1?

I absolutely don’t want to come across as a “mix and matcher” or “program jumper”, I have just never faced a situation where I feel the responsibility to increase size.

Surprisingly, the widow-maker set on squat day has made a huge impact. Adding that set alone has single-handedly increased the camaraderie among the kids.


Do the Krypteia program - it’s the best size/strength program I’ve ever done. HOWEVER, the kids are 100% responsible for what they eat, they will pay for it if they do not. You know how the forums think that you should eat like a bird and you only need 1200 calories of paleo shit foods to get “huge”? Well, all of them are full of shit and 90% fat. You gotta get the kids to eat. The ones that do, you can tell because they get bigger, stronger and look like athletes.

We also rarely, if ever, make the kids “tired” after a workout. They can all get through a training day of complexes, jumps, tumbling and training without feeling run down. This is HUGE. We NEVER train to achieve numbers, we train to get a bit better everyday. Chasing the dragon and chasing numbers = bad times.

But miraculously, all of them get bigger and stronger and crush their rep PR’s when we have a “test” day (we NEVER have a test day - it’s just built into the program).

The point is this - don’t be concerned with size and numbers - they will come with a quality program. Serve the program and coach the workout.


Thanks for reply. Looking forward to the Krypteia program.