5 Strong Reps Rule

I see that it’s often advised on the forum that a person should be able to do 5 strong reps with their training max. I also see that 85% and 90% of an actual max is recommended to use as a training max. Is it safe to assume that the 5 strong rep rule only applies to the 85%ers? 5 reps with 90% is quite a bit different than 5 with 85%. Does this 5 rep rule apply for most everyone here? If you’re a powerlifter would you tend to go with 90% as a training max?

It depends on which 5/3/1 template you are doing, but I’ve always viewed it as at least 5 good reps with either of those percentages as your TM and if you can’t bang out 5 reps your TM is wrong

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As long as that powerlifter is basing it off of a gym max and not a meet max, he should be ok. The biggest issue people tend to run into with the training max is they want to have the highest training max possible like it’s some sort of contest, so instead of basing it off of a max they could hit on any given day, they use that max that they hit that one time in their life when everything was going awesome and they were 15lbs heavier and had peaked for a meet.

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This. Whether that means it’s 85% or 90% doesn’t matter. It’s anecdotal, but that five good reps rule as stated above was what my squat TM was set at when I started 531 and of all my lifts it’s arguably the one that has progressed the best.

Interesting. It seems like it would be more difficult to determine a training max based on 5 “good” reps (was the last rep fast/good enough) vs just doing a max and taking a percentage (whether it’s 85 or 90) and using that.
I’ve been lifting for a long time and most of the lifting over the last couple of decades has been for limit strength. Just never been that great at reps - could get 85% for 5 pretty consistently but 90% would be a grind (if I got it).
I’ve been using 5/3/1 for about 11 months now and really like it. When I started I did actual maxes in the gym and then used 90% for my training maxes. I’ve done some basic 5/3/1 cycles, some 5’s PRO, and some 3/5/1. If at any point in those templates I did a good set of 5 that I might have gotten 6 with I figured that weight to be about 85% of my max at that time.

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Does this 5 rep rule apply for most everyone here?

**Yes. If you are trained personally by me, and want to be strong, the number is usually higher. **

If you’re a powerlifter would you tend to go with 90% as a training max?

Why would it not?

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As opposed to 85%. As I said I started with an actual 90% and that worked well - after a while I had to back up a couple of cycles and things started going well again. My question was more about 5 reps with 90% of your actual max. It hasn’t been my experience that I would be able to get 5 reps with 90% and I would expect that to be the case with the really strong guys (not putting myself in that category). The rep max formula using .0333 doesn’t equate to 90% for 5 either.

I never said it did. 3 reps generally = 90% 5 reps = 85%.

I have no idea where you think I said this, but can assure you, I never, ever have.

I didn’t mean to imply that I thought you said that. I was referring to advice on the forum being given by several people to use 85% or 90% and that being able to get 5 reps was a good rule to determine your training max.
So when you say the number is usually higher than 5 are you saying that most people should use a little less than 85% as a training max if they want to develop a good mix of strength endurance and limit strength and if someone is training exclusively for limit strength they should use 90%?

I have found that to make gains, especially if using additional submax work (FSL, BBB, SSL, etc.) that the TM should be around 85% when starting a 5/3/1 program (not template, an actual program).

These gains include limit strength, but as you know, there are multiple ways to do this (see Bulgarians vs. Russians for a simplified way to look at it). At the end of the day, the TM is widely determined by the actual program you are using, how it relates to all the other aspects of your training and your experience. But in general, 85% seems to work the best for majority of people. Personally, everyone single person I train has a TM less than 85% but I do everything, EVERYTHING off bar speed, never a %. It just works itself out to be no higher than 85%.

We just build and build and only occasionally “out-run” the TM.If you do that, you reset and start again. If you outrun it too quickly, you started way too high or don’t program correctly.

(Note: What some of the freshman have done in 2 months is insane - the progress is terrific and NONE OF THEM use any higher than 85%. But it does help when the coach is me and I can do everything in-person.)

Start light - can’t stress that enough. It ALWAYS works but greed/ego will kill you.


Great, thanks for taking the time to respond and I’m looking forward to the book.