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531 Main Lifts: DL, Front Squat, Pull-ups and Dips


I was thinking of using the 531 template with Trap bar Dead lift, Pull ups, Dips and Front squat.

The plan is

531 trap bar deadlift with 5 x 10 dips + 3 x 12 leg raises
531 pull ups with 5 x 10 Front squat + 3 x 12 rotation exercise
531 dips with 5 x 10 Romanian dead lift + 3 x 12 back extension
531 front squat with 5 x 10 chin ups + 3 x 12 shoulder press

Any criticism or suggestions on this?

I was thinking of swapping the 5x10 dips for incline DB bench press.


You can do it if you want, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for Jim’s approval. It’s a progression system that works very well and I’m sure you’d progress on those lifts, but the trap bar deadlift is the only acceptable replacement here, besides perhaps the front squat. Pull-ups and dips are not substitutes for bench and OHP, which are FULL BODY movements.


Pull ups and dips are assistance, not main lifts. Why aren’t you doing a legitimate 531 program? Are you not able to bench, squat, deadlift, or over head press? These are the staples of any 531 program, so by excluding all of them I don’t think it’s accurate to call what you’re proposing a 531 program.


I would not change the main lifts unless youre an advanced lifter, have some limitations or specific goals.

If you really want to change. I, too, recommend doing bench and/or press. They are superior for strength compared to BW movements. Trap bar deads and fronts are alright.


I have done 531 in the past, i found it great, I would like to do something different.

I would specifically like to build up strength in weighted pull ups and dips.

Could any of you suggest another program that would suit this better than adapting 531?

I plan on doing this for a few months. I can come back to bp and ohp…


I that case I’m pretty sure you’re fine


In my experience, getting really good at pull ups and dips should be done by a combination of weighted and un-weighted.

Day one: high volume, bodyweight only. I would work up to getting 10 sets of 15 for pull ups. Mix up the grips between: protonated, supinated, neutral, and mixed (one had protonated, one supinated). For dips, try to get up to 10 sets of 25. Start with something closer to whatever level you’re at, and add volume each week. I like to superset these.

Day two: Drop sets to failure. For this, (after a couple warm ups) something like: +45 pounds to failure +25 pounds to failure, +10 pounds to failure, BW to failure. Rest like 60-120s between. On this day, you can add pushups and rows if you want.

Day three: Heavy straight sets. Something like 4x6 with a weight added that would be close to your ~8 rep mass. You can add in some lower body/core work here.


Just keep the main barbell lifts and do dips and chins as assistance. Like the previous poster said, do a day of bodyweight and a day of weighted. Those movements won’t progress the same as barbell movements (especially chins). Chins are limited in how much you can progress on them. Even the strongest chinners you’ll see won’t be doing reps with much more than a hundred pounds. Dips are great, but they’ll start to get really dicey once you get up to a certain weight.


This. If you want to focus chins/dips do some easy bench/ohp first:

BP/OHP: 5’s pro + maybe (just maybe) some FSL
Chins weighted and unweighted
Dips weighted and unweighted

Jim has kind of a progression model for weighted chins. Use the same principles for chins/dips.


While I might be going against the majority here, I’m not a big fan of the back squat, conv deadlift and excessive pushing movements.

Bottom line is, unless you COMPETE in powerlifting, there’s no need for any of them. I also see it as more logical to have 4 main movements including a PUSH, PULL, HINGE and SQUAT. I think the bench and OHP are interchangeable regarding pushing strength.

I’ve ran 5/3/1 using this template and it worked fine, basically pick any exercise (within reason) for any of those 4 movement patterns and apply the 5/3/1 template to it.

PUSH (Weighted Dips, Press, Bench, Floor Press, DB Press or even Weighted Push Ups on rings) just be careful not to get sloppy on the form if you pick dips or pushups, cutting the ROM weekly, etc. having miniweights will also help, I personally have weights starting from 0.25lbs.

PULL (BB Rows, DB Rows, Weighted Chins/Pull Ups, Weighted Inverted Rows) I think Weighted Chins are the best option here, if you can do them on rings even better.

SQUAT (Back Squat, Box Squat, Front Squat, Goblet Squat, Split Squat) I’m not a huge fan of the split squat, because once I go all out on one side, I don’t have as much left for the other. On the Box Squat you can also increase the ROM from one cycle to another, like going from 18’’ to 15’’ to 12’’, if you went from a 5 x 405 Box Squat at 18’’ to 12’’ using the same weight, you got stronger.

HINGE (Trap Deadlift, Sumo Deadlift, Conv Deadlift, Power Clean, Incline or Regular Back Ext) I would recommend using back ext as assistance only, but heavy deadlifts can take a toll on your body after years, so it might be a nice break for a cycle or two.

I would program it something like this:

Day 1
Main: HINGE (Trap DL) 5/3/1
Assistance on main: Trap DL 3 x 5, Back Ext, GHR (bands), Farmer’s Walk
Assistance on PULL: Chin Ups, Face Pulls, Band Pull Aparts, Rows (wtv you feel like doing)

Day 2 -
Main: PUSH (Weighted Dips) 5/3/1
Assistance on main: BW Dips or 3 x 5, Press, DB Incline, Lateral Raise, Tricep work
Assistance on SQUAT: Front Squats (light), AB Roller, Split Squats (volume), Lunges

Day 3 -
OFF or conditioning (biking, boxing, incline walking, hill sprints, rowing etc.)
Mobility work (you should def do this everyday, but having a day dedicated to it helps)

Day 4 -
Main: PULL (Weighted Chin Ups) 5/3/1
Assistance on main: BW Chins ups or 3 x 5, DB Curls (yes), Face Pulls, Rows
Assistance on HINGE: Back Ext, GHR, very light Trap DL (like 3 x 20) working on form, Farmer’s Walk

Day 5 - SQUAT (Front Squat) 5/3/1
Assistance on main: 3 x 5 Front Squat, Box Squats, Split Squats, Lunges
Assistance on PUSH: Dips (volume), Press, Tricep work

Day 6 -
OFF or conditioning (biking, boxing, incline walking, hill sprints, rowing etc.)
Mobility work (you should def do this everyday, but having a day dedicated to it helps)

Day 7 -

The only part of the workout that should be fixed in stone is the 5/3/1, the rest should be up to you’re feeling that day, how much sleep you got, calories you ate, stress levels, how much time, etc. If you’re back from a vacation and feeling like Superman, injury free, getting 10 hours of sleep for the past week, definite go balls to the walls. If you’re stressed out, not getting much sleep and have a nagging injury, just do the minimum for that day. People often fall into too rigid workouts and that’s how they get injured or ‘‘burn out’’.

Just my 2 cents, hope this helps.


Again, chins are a dumb exercise for which to use 5/3/1. They have an extremely limited capacity for improvement. The press and bench are not interchangeable, they feed off of each other. This is another example of something being a snowflake, thinking they’re special/different than everyone else, and thinking they more than people who have forgotten more than they’ll ever know about strength training.


‘This is another example of something being a snowflake’

Thanks for your input…

I don’t need anything further on this, thanks for the help.


Chin have a limited capacity for improvement? How do you explain people doing Chin Ups with 200lbs attached around their waist?

You have to zoom out of the powerlifting dogma… 5/3/1 basic principles applies to most if not all compounds lifts; adding more weight or reps over time. It certainly applies to Chin Ups. I have a weight belt and weights starting from 0.25lbs, so it’s very easy to micro-load and progress on Chin Ups that way.

As for the Press, someone could very well replace the Bench with the Press and only do Push Ups and Dips for chest on the side. You don’t have to Bench…

Everyone can have a different ‘‘big 3’’, it doesn’t have to be Squat/Bench/Deadlift everytime… doesn’t make them snowflakes (and I hate snowflakes).


What is 65% of your training max for dips and chins? Do you just take percentages of the added weight and ignore the fact that a lot of the resistance is bodyweight?

If you are taking bodyweight into consideration, what percentage is an unweighted rep?

Unless you are very strong at dips and chins already, you can’t really start that light, which violates some of the 5/3/1 principles.


I’d agree with this, and I love weighted dips and pull ups. I think constantly doing heavy sets of 5 is not a great way to progress on these, and you’re better keeping them at 10 reps are higher as an assistance move. You can really push these as assistance by adding whatever weight is appropriate to your level, and get in 5 sets of 10 between the main sets.

As for using the 531 philosophy, I agree it’s broadly applicable to training. I even use it even for sprint workouts. Do three warm ups that start really slow and add just a bit of speed to the next two. Do three “working sets” where you push it a bit harder each time. Then do 5 “BBB” sets where you dial it back a bit but extend out the distance.


I wouldn’t venture into 5/3/1 Chin Ups if you aren’t already strong at them.

For example, if I do 5 x BW+80 at 210lbs BW, that is approx a 1RM of BW+128, or 338lbs chin up total.

If I wanna use 70% of that, it amounts to 237lbs. It’s the same principle, except you can’t go lower than your BW for training weight, unless you have an assistance machine or you use bands/counter weights.

I thnk the best ‘‘workout’’ if something that you enjoy doing and will stick to for a long time. I’d rather something 10/10 enjoyable and 7/10 effective, than 5/10 enjoyable and 10/10 effective, because I’ll ditch the second one after 2 weeks.


I think we’re in agreement. If you are strong enough at pull-ups that an unweighted pull-up is relatively light, it can work. However, you should be using a 90% (or less) training max, so 70% would only be 212 in your example.

It’s also important to watch form. I think weighted pull-ups are prone to form degradations if you keep adding weight and do whatever it takes to get the chin over the bar. Shoulder mechanics and kipping need to be controlled.


Jim has a kind of a “program/template” for weighted chins. It’ll propably works for the dips too.

I also agree that progressing in chins/dips is difficult unless you’re already strong in these.

I stay in my original post: keep some kind barbell press in (a lot of options here) and keep progressing in chins/dips at the same time. Getting better with barbell will help your chins/dips too.