A Couple Common Sense 5/3/1 Questions

Hi, so I am am preparing to hop onto 5/3/1. But a concern I have, which I’ve seen parroted by some others online is that if the program is a 4 day split which dedicates an individual day to deadlifting, benchpressing, squatting, and overhead pressing, is just 1 day for each of these exercises enough to make those muscles grow and get stronger? I’ve been lifting for maybe 6-9 months now and have been craving for a strength training program with some clear proggression like this one, but only doing each exercise once a week seems WAAY too little for me because I am currently on a push pull legs sched. Where I’m doing this stuff twice a week pretty much

Also, 5/3/1 recommends something called big but boring for hypertrophy. This is basically just the main lift of the day but you do less weight for 5 sets of 10, but then what about the muscles you leave out by just deadlifting, benching, squatting and overhead pressing? Biceps for example? Much of the back? The abs? Should I add even more of these exercises as accessory work as to not leave these muscles underdeveloped? Or should I just do a separate 5th day for all of these. Any feedback is much appreciated.

I’ve been doing 5/3/1 almost exclusively for over 1.5 years now, and I’ve gone from this (30 June 2021):

to this (01 January 2023):

and I even looked like this (12 December 2021):

and this (06 June 2022):

along the way.

I’ve also gotten significantly stronger and better conditioned during that time, so…

5/3/1 works.

Heck, anything works—if you attack it with enough consistency and effort.

Don’t overthink it.


Read the “The Assistance Work Following The Assistance Work” section. Or better yet, buy the book. Maybe just take the exact workout laid out in the “Sample Workout” section.

With Boring But Big, people often do it like

Bench 531, 5x10 OHP
OHP 531, 5x10 Bench

That is hitting the movements twice a week if it’s important to you.

Depends on which template you go for, I’ve bought all 3 of the main 5/3/1 books. On the third book 5/3/1 Forever there are a huge number of number of templates catering to different goals, some of these include templates where you perform main lifts twice per week on a four day split.

You can absolutely get stronger in each of the lifts by performing each lift only once per week using the OG 5/3/1 template, this is tracked on the PR set.

The books outline recommendations for accessory work. I’d really recommend buying the books, you can get the first two on kindle for a few pounds/dollars/whatever your local currency is. They are hands down the best training books I’ve bought.

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Well said, @aholding88! One ‘like’ for this post simply isn’t enough.


Not to be the “that’s the way it was and we liked it” guy, but once a week per lift is how about half of us used to do it… even those of us lifting purely for sports. The other half was full body 3x a week. There wasn’t any debate, because Al Gore had not yet invented the Internet, it was just whichever gym you went to you did what those guys were doing.

That was kind of a long, boring way to just agree with everyone above saying “it all works and it’s really about getting after it.”

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Ok I very much like the idea of doing something like bench 5/3/1 then Overhead press 5x10
Then doing Overhead press 5/3/1 then bench on another day.

But the link you sent says that if you do big but boring, not to do the final “+” sets. the thing that made 5/3/1 so appealing for me was the all-out final set where you do as much reps as possible and now it’s basically saying not to do that.

Because hypertrophy is the goal of the program, it will leave you fresher to perform the 5 sets of 10 reps and eventually allow you to do these at a higher weight.

Either follow the program to a T, or buy the books and find a 531 variation that excites you more.

Maybe there are people here that have ran it and pushed the top set deeper. Just know that if you were to do that you are not following the program as laid out here anymore and will find your 5x10 sets a little weaker because of it.

It’s worth appreciating that Jim says, for 99% of his athletes, he has them do the same lift for main and supplemental work.

Having done it both ways: Jim is right on the money here. For BBB: same lift is superior.

Very likely. But that is not to say that the opposite is not still great. He wouldn’t have laid it out that way in the “Sample workout” otherwise.

You having ran them both ways and noticed a decently measurable difference to make that point is interesting. @Crlsfrthegirls you need to listen to this guy because he’s been in the 531 trenches for a long-ass time and will have the experience to back up his points.

I appreciate the agreement


Also should be slightly more efficient workout (faster) if you keep the 5x10 as the same movement as the main lift since you won’t need to do any sort of additional warmups/ramps…if you do that sort of thing.

Not that PWN needs to hear this but it’s an additional thought to his response.

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Yup! So many ways it’s the better choice. A faster workout, which is a more BRUTAL workout, and it also means doing the 5x10 work under pre-established fatigue from the main work, which ALSO makes it more brutal.

So many dudes that complain that BBB isn’t challenging enough intentionally go out of their way to make it NOT CHALLENGING.

As always: the goal is to keep the goal the goal. BBB is about putting on size. That’s what the final B stands for (Big). It’s NOT about frequently practicing the lifts so that you get better at them. If getting BETTER is the goal: there are other 5/3/1 programs for that. If getting BIGGER is the goal, BBB, Building the Monolith and 5/3/1 for Hardgainers are great choices.