T Nation

531 Programming Questions


Hi there,

I recently switched to 531 (BBB, with the press on bench day and squat on DL day format) from Fierce 5 novice routine as I had to reset my lifts a few times and weekly progress seems to have stopped. 531 might not be the optimal program for me, but I like the structure and steady (but slower) progress.

A bit of background to explain my choice (you can skip this but might help answering my questions): 2 years ago I’ve had a stomach surgery (for a hiatal hernia) which left me at 130lbs at 6ft tall (22y/o). I lost 30lbs and nearly all of my strength, could barely bench press the bar for 10 reps. Now 2 years later (actually I’ve only been lifting again for 6 months as rehab was really hard) I’m back up to 155lbs. Sometimes being able to eat in a surplus is still hard. I’ve also been ‘blessed’ with a fast metabolism, which makes it even harder for me. My recovery isn’t what it used to be and I’ve had some joint issues because of the massive weight loss (I have really thin wrists, narrow hips, …). I do like strength training a lot, but my main focus is gaining some size and I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll never be able to bench 500lbs, squat 700 lbs etc. Currently my lifts are at (1RM): bench 170lbs, squat 200, deadlift 240 and OHP 100lbs. A full body program with weekly linear progression seems to be too much for me now that I’ve stalled and reset my lifts a few times.

Currently my routine looks like this:

Deadlift 531 + squat 5x10 @50% + 5 sets abs
Bench 531 + press 5x10 @60% + BB row 5x10
Squat 531 + rack pulls 5x10 + 5 sets abs
Press 531 + bench press 5x10 @60% + 5x5 weighted chin-ups


  • The recommended 5x10 @ 50-60% seems a bit light when alternating press/bench & squat/DL. Is it recommended to keep it this way or to autoregulate?

  • Furthermore: 5x5 (higher intensity lower reps) seems to work better for me, easier to progress in weigth and with that size I noticed. In beyond 531 Wendler says 5x3 or 5x5 is acceptable too. Many people (from what I read on forums) say 5x10 will yield better results for size. I honestly do not like anything above 6 reps on heavy barbell compounds as it seems ‘too light’ then for the first 6 reps. Should I go for 5x5 @80% TM? Also , does the 80% stay the same the whole cycle or do you increase weight once you hit 5x5? Which would mean you’d surpass your training 5RM for the 531 lifts after a while…

  • Lastly: my arms are still skinny twigs and have not progressed at all in comparison with chest/back/legs. Until now I only did a few sets of curls/pushdowns/skullcrushers in the 8-12 range after my main lifts as even the creator of Fierce 5 states that bigger arms come with getting stronger at compound lifts. Would heavy bb curls and dips (5x5) make a difference? How can I program this into my current 531 routine?



Don’t change the program.

Believe in the program and the process.

Do FSL instead of BBB

Your arms will be fine, stay the course and believe in the program. After a few cycles, reassesse your assistance.


Regarding the “hard to eat in a surplus comment” I’ve also had stomach issues. The important thing is to simply eat in a surplus even if it’s a small one to start. Like anything you have to let your body adjust to it little by little. Blend high calorie shakes between meals if necessary, it’s much easier to drink calories.