T Nation

About the Definition of "Stalling" and When It Happens


#1

So, I’ve searched through the threads and read some things about stalling, but I have a doubt.
When does “stalling” occour exactly in the 5/3/1 program?
Is that strictly when you can’t hit anymore the minimum reps (5/3/1s) or when your estimated 1RM gets lower from one month to another?
For example, let’s say that one month I have a TM of 100lbs in the bench press. With 95% of it during the third week (“1+” set), I do 5 reps. This puts the estimated 1RM (using the formula in the book) at about 110lbs.
Then the following month I increase the TM to 105lbs, and with the 95% during the third week I do 3 reps.
Using the formula, this puts the estimated 1RM at about 109-110lbs again.

Is that considered stalling and should trigger the “3 cycles back TM”, or in a similar scenario should I just keep going ahead until I can’t hit the minimum required reps?

Thanks in advance


#2

I for one, consider it stalling when I can’t get at least 5 strong reps.

It may not be optimal, but it works for me.

There were a couple times (with bench press) when I continued forth after 2-3 reps and not hitting an estimated PR. I stalled very shortly after and in retrospect, should’ve reset.


#3

To me and what Jim has shared is that, “it’s all about bar speed”, so looking at stalling from my perspective is all about getting the required number of reps plus. I always strive for min of 5 on all my sets, then when I start hitting less than that on my 1+ week, I start to evaluate whether or not I need to reset my TM, some cycles I will push through other times I will reset. But once again depending on my bar speed.

This is coming up on my 3rd year of running 5/3/1. Im still learning more and more about the program, but once I started playing with jokers it put my TM in perspective. To me whether you are programming them in or not (Jokers), I look at the TM as whether I can hit 3+ on a bad day. If I don’t feel I can do that I sure Im reaching my lifting ceiling and need to rethink my TM.

This is just the way I approach it. gives me more room to error on the light side, but also gives me options to lift heavier, when days are good.


#4

Thanks, so it’s a bit by numbers and a bit by “feeling”, so to say. I just started the 5/3/1 so I was just thinking ahead for now, I don’t know about Joker sets - I purchased the 5/3/1 Beyond but I’m sticking to the most basic version and planning to do it as long as it works, before moving to more advanced things.

What you mean by that? You mean at least 5 reps in the 3+ week? Or 3+ reps in the 1+ week?


#5

Stalling is the same as any other program, its when you stop making progress (too long between PRs) or even worse a regression. With 5/3/1 with whatever weight you use on your 1+ week eventually that will be used on your 3+ and 5+ weeks as the TM increases. So if the reps are not increasing it means there is no progress. You can usually see this coming ahead of time but be patient, especially on lifts like OHP.

The simplest way to judge this is the following. Each cycle you get 3 chances to make a PR on each lift. If you can get a PR at least 1 of the 3 weeks your still making progress. If your doing good on other lifts but 1 lift is not progressing then reset that one. If its been at least 6 cycles and your technically progressing (1 PR per lift per cycle) and you see a stall coming soon just reset everything.


#6

It means that IF you decided to work up to 100% (your TM) on any given week, you should be able to get at least 3+ reps in, if you can’t do that your TM is to high and should be adjusted. Im not saying you have to do them, just know in your mind you can do it if needed. This helps me keep the TM set properly.

I see that your just starting, but yes it’s by feel and numbers. It’s just a way I use the program, and that may not translate to all lifters. I went for two years before I actually had a good grasp of how to use the correct TM. It was always to high, when I set it back like 4 or 5 cycles and worked back up, my numbers got better. The work I was putting in was better quality.

In the end its just going to take some trial and error. Keep reading the posts here on Tnation, and Jim’s site. I always pull a little nugget of information that helps keep building my tool box.

Good luck on your journey.


#7

When it’s all broken down, if you are using 90% of 1rm as your training max, the 95% on 1’s week equates to about 85% or a 5rm. You should be able to get 5+ reps on every AMRAP set. If not, it’s an indicator of stalling and TM being too high.


#8

If you have a one off bad day, don’t stress too much. If you consistently miss then drop the weight. I recently dropped my deadlift and focussed on higher bar speed, which has worked well. Also don’t forget you can keep the tm the same for the next cycle and try for more reps of the same weight.


#9

This is when the program starts and not necessarily true after several months.


#10

Thanks everyone for the inputs, much clearer now :slight_smile:


#11

Wrong. If your unable to get 5+ reps on the top set of your 1’s week, then your training max is outrunning the ability to compensate. The percentages do not change. Just because you add 5-10 lbs to your TM every cycle doesn’t mean your actual 1rm has increased or have got any stronger. A 1rm=100%. A TM of 90%=90%. A 95% top set on week 3 =85.5% or around a 5rm. If you are unable to perform 5 reps on a 85%/5 rep maximal attempt and get, say 2 reps, then that exertion is closer to a true 95% of 1rm set. Not considering having an off day, but if this consistently happens, then your TM is too high.


#12

Yes but, one thing: I follow the rule of not going to failure on the “+” sets but keeping at least 1 rep in the tank, and I don’t take that into account in the formula when I try to reverse the weightxreps into an estimated 1RM.
So, say, if you get 4 reps on your 1+ set and you can honestly say that you had 1 more rep before failure, that somewhat compensates, right?

So far, the 1RM formula calculator has been pretty much right, I tested my 1RMs two weeks ago.
Got 58kg on OHP, then did 9 reps with 44kg, which equals to 57kg 1RM and at least 1 (possibly 2) reps in the tank.
Got 140kg in the deadlift using the belt, then did 8 reps with 108kg without belt which equals to something more than 136kg, still with at least 1 rep in the tank (probably that extra rep would have been without awesome form, due to the lack of belt).
Today I did push press, I’d estimate my 1RM at about 10% more than OHP (so 64-66kg give or take), I did 7 reps with 50kg, which projects to a 1RM of 62kg. This is the only one who’s not in line with the estimated 1RM, but I was interrupted during the set, I had to rack the weight after 2 reps, then unrack it again for the following 5, and I feel it somewhat diminished my focus.

Since I’m in the very first week of the very first cycle, I should expect my estimated 1RMs to match the tested 1RMs, and then I’d start to see teh gainz from the following cycles, correct?


#13

Where did you get this info from? If your always supposed to get 5+ reps on the 1+ week why didn’t the program call it 5+? The program is called 5/3/1 not 5/5/5 or whatever your claiming the minimum reps should be.


#14

Hence, Jim’s recommendation of being able to complete 5+ reps on any top set of any week and using bar speed as an indicator. If you are leaving 1 in the tank on the 4th rep it’s probably a pretty good assumption that you are slowing down enough that, that 5th rep is going to be somewhat of a grinder. There’s nothing wrong with grinding or learning how to grind, but this is what jokers are for. If this is consistently happening in your work sets, then it’s highly possible a stall is in the future. The bar speed and the 5 rep minimum topics are both searchable on the forum.


#15

From Jim Wendler on this very forum. Use the search engine.


#16

Maybe an updated book will make this more clear in the future, I am just going off the books since I don’t follow this thread too much until recently.


#17

I had no idea staling was that complicated.


#18

One thing tho.
The 5 reps/bar speed suggestion is with the TM at 90%, or with TM at 80-85%? I seem to recall that on his blog and in his latest book Jim seems to suggest a TM in the 80-85% range above the original 90% one


#19

Yes based on 1RM calculations it needs to start at 80-85 to have room to progress. Using 90% you will end up getting about 5-6 reps on cycle 1 and that doesn’t even take into account bar speed. Then every cycle after that you’ll be struggling to keep the 5 reps and bar speed and not be able to run the program as long.


#20

I ran the program verbatim for the biggest part of a year and a half and this issue with TM and auto-regulation is the biggest hole in the program. He tried to fix it with 5up/3back and said later on that it was a band aid on a cluster fuck or something to that affect. Even further back, with his “aha” moment with joker sets. This was another attempt to allow for more freedom of auto-regulation that users tend to screw up and abuse. And now we have the 7th week protocol. It’s extremely hard to auto-regulate percentage based programs. For one, you are programming a whole cycles’ progress based on the effort of one days performance and then adding a prescribed weight of 5-10lbs the following cycle whether you are ready for the increase or not. If you are experienced enough and/or have your ego in check, this isn’t as big of an issue, but most don’t and if it weren’t such an issue, there wouldn’t be four different protocols to date that I can remember off the top of my head to address the issue. I’m not trying to come off as slamming the program as a whole, but at some point you have to learn to rely on basic math no matter what your TM is set at. If your TM is set at 85%, that 95% top set on week 3 represents an 80% attempt or a 6rm for most and you should be good for that or more. If not, well I guess you will find out for yourself. Good luck.