531 for Hardgainers: Only 5s, No 3s or 1s?


I thought i should start doing the program outlined in

but skip bench and only train 3 days a week

the thing is, it’s only 5’s and 5x5s some 20s but no 3s or 1s in the article
is that a typo? or is it a customized program for hardgainers and hardgainers thrive on 5s and should not use 3s and 1s?

Pretty damn sure he didn’t screw up his own program.

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It’s called 5s PRO, pretty common in his later work. Don’t worry about the name, just donut as written.

that means at week three the first cycle (copy and paste):

Main Lift: Deadlift

75% x 5
85% x 5
95% x 5+ (PR set)
5 sets of 5 reps @ 75%

it will be challenging for sure, especially the second cycle with 10 pounds added

That’s it.
Better be sure you get your TM right.

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This. So much this. This really shouldn’t be that unreasonable with an 85% TM


no, i can see me do it the first and even the second cycle, but after that, i hope i have progressed some otherwise …

also, the article didn’t mention a deload week after a completed cycle. does that mean a deload week after a cycle is not required?

Though it doesn’t mention it, I think standard rules apply. You may be able to skip the first one but will probably be ready to deload by the end of the second cycle.


thanks guys

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Jim recommends 2 cycles back to back before reload as standard in beyond 531. His recommendations may have changed since.


another thought. i’m not really wanting to build size, just get stronger and improve my body composition. currently 51 year at 182 cm and 91 kg, the scale says 16.4 % fat.

and my idea is to use 531 for hard gainers to get stronger primarily, i think i have stalled on linear progression. a friend said my only option to get stronger is to gain weight since i stalled on linear progression and thereby my cns i almost fully adapted and i can only get stronger by increasing muscle mass which will be hard to do without gaining weight though improving body composition with constant weight should give a strength increase.

i have another opinion though and that is that muscle mass can either be sarcoplastic or myofibrillar, where myofibrillar mass is stronger than sarcoplastic per unit mass. so i thought that with time and 531 my muscle ratio would shift in favor for myofibrillar mass and thus, i could get stronger without gaining muscle mass.

is there a grain of truth in my thought or should i rethink this?

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You can get stronger without getting bigger. I would suggest 531 for hardgainers is a poor choice for this goal though

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which begs the question what is a good choice?

That depends. How strong are you currently? What limits do you have on your training? What’s the reason you wanted to skip bench in the initial plan?

DL 175 kg
squat 120 kg
ohp 60 kg
bench 95 kg

been doing gym every second day, alternating between session A to G (set x reps below)
A squat, one of 8x3 6x4, 5x5, 4x6, 3x8, 2x10 , 1x20 for a new pr in that set x rep
B squat, just a few lifts to hone technique
C front squat, one challenging set at about 70 to 75 %
D DL 12x1 somewhere at 80 to 90 %
E squat, just a few lifts to hone technique
F squat, one of 3x8, 6x4, 5x5, 4x6, 3x8, 2x10 , 1x20 for a new pr in that set x rep
G high pull, pendlay row

assecories - 2 lifts often ohp and bb row, usually some warmup and just one challenging set 10-20 reps per lift
a finisher sometimes - sled or farmers

i just finished the “program” above, because i decided to follow it for 6 months and i did. now i’m looking for a more efficient program, strength training 3 days/week instead of 3.5 days/week and maybe i can go a little harder. the goal is strength with carry over to non-grappling self defense.

been trying to pick the lowest hanging fruits so to speak
going harder on the squat has given me pain around my hip sockets and sometimes my lower back feels flaky - i do butt wink in the bottom so no atg but slightly below parallel usually works

bench doesn’t strike me as it has a lot of carry over to non-grappling self defense, i also have shoulder pain from benching.

I would consider full body full boring. It is exactly as boring as the name suggests, just so you’ve been warned. In your case, I see no reason you couldn’t sub the bench out for OHP.

I try to only recommend templates I’ve actually had success with and this is one I know has definitely worked consistently for me. I’m sure far smarter, more experienced guys will come up with plenty of others to take your fancy though.

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btw, what’s the basis for this suggestion?

The description of the program above states that it’s designed to add size to underweight beginners who struggle to gain size. It may well work to do what you want but my experiences with Jim’s programs is that they pretty much do what they say on the tin.

I believe @ChickenLittle is actually running this template, she may be able to weigh in.

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I ran a rotating 3 day/week hardgainer program for two cycles during the leader/accumulation phase of a strongman contest prep cycle. I was weighing around 185 at the start and dropped about 5lbs, then another 5 via water cut prior to competition. I was fasting 24hrs once/week and running ostarine (a SARM) 8 weeks out.

My deadlift, bench and press improved a good bit while squat stagnated.

I had a great run, but this was a contest prep and I wouldn’t have been able to sustain it for much longer than I did.

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I am currently running the HG program because in the past it that is where I have made the most consistent progress.

If you are not a high volume guy, don’t even.

This is a hypertrophy program but that will depend on what you stuff in your face. That’s what it comes down to.

At 51 I don’t think you need to worry about getting big.

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