531 - Deadlift Frustration

First off thankyou Jim for this programme and the all round flexibility it offers.

im currently running the standard 531 with the addition of jokers and a first set last.

For assistance I do 10 sets of 10 with 50-60% of my TM and I use a different lift.

Monday :
Deadlift 531
Squat 10x10

Bench press 531
Military press 10x10

Wednesday : running - usually 5k or 10k

Squat 531
Deadlift 10x10

Military press 531
Bench press 10x10

I also throw in Chins and dips whenever I feel like it…

Everything has been progressing nicely but I’m finding Im very inconsistent with my deadlift PR sets.

My form on the last set is very hit and miss … Some days everything will feel perfect and smooth and then other days it just feels sloppy like my form is off.

My two ascending sets are always perfect because the reps are only 5 or 3 which is easy to maintain strict form.

But the main PR set I seem to just go balls out for a PR and it all just becomes a messy touch n go grind.

Doesn’t happen all the time … For instance my last 5s week (168 kg) I hit 13 reps with very smooth controlled form and they were all paused reps.

But on this 5s week (173kg) I got 12 and it just felt like garbage … It turned into touch n go after the first few reps with a bit of a bounce and something just felt flimsy and off about the whole set.

I’m wondering if maybe I should limit my PR set for the deadlift to just 1 or 2 reps over the prescribed number …

That way it removes the temptation to grind out bad reps and will maybe restore some consistency to my form.

I’ve been running 531 for 15 cycles now but have reset a couple of a few times - not due to stalling but just because I found myself getting to the point where I was only able to get 1 rep or so over the required ones … and I also like revisiting my lower training maxes and hitting new Rep PRs …

You aren’t doing the program. So there’s that.

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I will help you out, because this was me just a few months ago until I sat down and did my homework.

From what I have read, your Deadlift workout would look something like this:
FSL 5xx5
Squat 10x10

Just from this, sirens can be heard in the distance.

Lets start with the PR set. You say you go “balls out for a PR and it all just becomes a messy touch n go grind”. The PR set should not be grinded out, nor should it be taken until failure. Each rep should be done with maximum effort and speed until you have 1-2 good reps left in the tank. From this, I can safely assume that your TM is set too high. Make sure that it is 85% or BELOW for deadlifts.

Jokers. I’m not sure there are many people on this site who understand Jokers, and by no means do I consider myself an expert at them. Jim himself has admitted that he sometimes wishes he had just kept his mouth shut about them. Anyway, I do know this: Jokers are NOT part of your daily workouts. They are reserved for those very special unicorn days in which your weights feel like styrofoam. Until then, take them out.

FSL and your 10x10. You have to pick one. I’m not even sure if the 10x10 is even advised for 5/3/1. In the Beyond book, Jim mentions GVT, but disses it at the same time. This leaves you with FSL.

FSL, BBS, BBB, Widowmakers, Pyramid, whatever other template you see. That is your supplemental work. You pick ONE of these to do, and then move onto assistance.

Assistance work is abs, low back, triceps, curls, lat pulldowns, kroc rows, dips, DB bench. The list goes on. On your upper body days you will pick: rowing movement, pressing movement, “core” movement (abs, low back, single leg work). The rule of thumb for these lifts is 50-100 lifts.

They you will do your conditioning work (with jumps/throws/sprints preceding the workout).

So lets modify this Deadlift workout:
Agile 8
3x5 Box Jumps
5/3/1+ (85% TM, 1-2 GOOD reps left in the tank)
FSL 5x5 squat or deadlift just use the appropriate weight
Leg Raises 50-100 reps
20 min Air Dyne

Hope this helps. I will try to answer more questions if I can.


Thankyou so much for your help …

My BBB kind of got carried away and evolved into the GVT but I’m happy to ditch that and just do first set last - I had been doing just one first set last but it was a max out set to failure.

I’ve not tried using it in a 5x5 format so will enjoy trying that.

Also I will definitely reset my deadlift to 85% and progress again from there.

i find it hard staying away from failure as temptation always gets the better of me being a former bodybuilder …

So I really must get away from this habit…

You’ve given me some great pointers and jim gave me a perfect wake up call with his comment so thankyou both.

You will also feel a lot better since now you will be training instead of just working out. Good luck!

khmccarthy that is an awesome post and you are awesome for posting it. That basically answered 5 questions at once. Kudos to you.

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Best description imaginable. In my experience these happen once every three months if you’re lucky.

I did have one more question actually regarding the last set …

I remember reading on the TNation boring but big challenge that Jim recommends not going for a rep PR on the last set and just sticking to prescribed reps.

The bit that really stood out to me was when he mentioned that a lot of guys will actually get stronger by just sticking to the prescribed reps.

I was just wondering if this would be a good option for me as it would allow me to focus 100 percent on bar speed and form without feeling the need to rush my reps and grind out PRs

Has anyone had good success by just doing the set reps for any length of time ?

Or should this only be reserved for days you feel like crap ?

Adjust TM to 85% and use 5’s Pro. You wouldnt have to “stress” about setting PR and still get good volume in. You should be able to focus and push one heavier set of 5 reps with good form/bar speed.

If you are doing the BBB challenge then no, you do not go for PR sets. This is unique to certain challenges/templates.

As @Sami_84 suggested, 5’s PRO would be just what you are looking for. I would run that for about two cycles or until you feel confident in your programming abilities.

You can find out about programming by looking at older posts on this forum and reading the books. From my understanding, it will also be fully covered when the new 5/3/1 book is released.

You are very kind, thank you.

Forgive my lack of knowledge but can 5s pro be used for the top set of the day or does it have to be with the first set last ?

For instance I would stick to standard 531 sets reps and percentages with a 5s week , a 3s week and a 531 week …

But instead of going for a rep PR on the last set each week I would cap it at 5 and then do 4 more sets of 5 with the same weight ?

That actually sounds much more appealing to me as I could really focus on bar speed and explosiveness.

  1. I’m not sure I understand this statement. Elaborate after I answer the others if you feel it is necessary.

  2. No. 5’s PRO is an alternative to the 5/3/1 rep scheme. You do the same percentages except everything is done for 5 reps. No PR sets as outlined in Beyond.

  3. If you pair this with FSL, you have to use the percentage from the first set. That’s why it’s First Set Last.

If you have not already. Go buy 5/3/1 2nd edition and the Beyond book. It is impossible to understand the depth of this program without them.

I always just think about doing the set reps and then see what happens when the bar starts moving. If I worry about it too much beforehand I can get too geeked up and sacrifice form to get the number of reps I want. If I instead focus on doing solid reps then I usually do more than the set reps anyway. Regardless, 5 solid reps is better than 8 sloppy ones. Wendler even covers this in Beyond 5/3/1, reminding us that you have to remember you are training for more than just today.

Thanks guys …

I think I will switch over to the 5s pro on my next cycle.

I only have the original book so haven’t read beyond 531 yet.

I did try the above advice yesterday - I just focused on the 5 good controlled reps and then continued until form started to get sloppy for 9 reps on bench day.

I think your right that the pressure of setting a PR gets me too worked up and I end up rushing my reps to try and hit a certain number.

I think I may just forget about PRs all together and focus on maximum effort with good bar speed and paused reps.

I’ve been running 531 for about 12 months and seen some good progress despite the rep quality issue.

I’ve stuck to the 5 forward and 3 back rule of thumb … And my best streak i actually managed 6 cycles while still getting one rep over the prescribed ones.

But as soon as i reach the point of just getting one rep over the prescribed that’s when I reset Because I’d rather not reach the point of actually stalling.

I love the program and the fact that the longer you stay on it the more you learn.

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