Adapting 531 for Intermediate Women

Been lifting seriously for almost 4 years. Bench over bodyweight, DL 5kg shy of double body weight. Am 50 now and recovery is poorer .Want to try programming for myself so have bought Beyond 531.

Been doing some research and as I’m female, there isn’t the same relationship between my 1rm and eg my 5rm etc, as for a guy.

One suggestion was instead of doing 65%,75%,85% in week 1, to do 70,80,90 to make up for this. Otherwise would be training more submaximally than a guy would .

Also having smaller cycle increases eg 5lbs lower,2lbs upper.
Any women tried this approach?

At my age ,it’s going to be a struggle to maintain strength so the last thing I want to do is undertrain. Want to hit that sweet spot

My female clients do increase TMs by half, yes. Sometimes even less and we use light ankle weights on the bar to increase weight by a smaller incriment.

Thanks. Any thoughts about increasing the percentages by 5%?

This is doable yes.
Also depending on if you are doing PR sets you could just keep the weight the same for 2 cycles and try to beat the amount of reps

There is a small difference with women being able to rep out %s of 1RM better than men buy also being unable to accurately hit a 1RM. The difference is not something which invalidates 5/3/1 or which is you need to worry about too much.

BAD BAD idea because in week 3 you would be hitting 100%. Also if you insisted on changing anything I would advise using a slightly higher training max and NOT changing the session %s

The default training maxes for the 5/3/1 templates are 80-90% of a real 1RM with many recommending 85%.

Thanks, I may add a few lbs to TM…It’s simpler to use my excel template with this too… Typically how many cycles should it take before you plateau and have to reset?

That’s impossible to answer.
Depends on many factors:
Training max % used
Increments used between cycle
How you are eating
What supplemental work you are doing
How strong/ weak you are

Another question . I want to lift with high percentages as much as possible ( the higher the intensity the greater the effect on bone density )so was thinking of running the Rule of 10 for a few cycles.I also want to squat and bench twice a week and do upper/lower with 4 sessions a week. Is the BBB template the only one that allows this? I need to read the book again, first time around, couldn’t see any
other template that allowed this.

Can I suggest running a cycle twice. And trying to add reps? This is something I’ve used more than once and it worked.

Thanks , good tip.I’ll be ok for 4 or 5 cycles I reckon and then can try adding reps when get close to my current 1rm

No. Never tamper with percentages. Those are there for a reason. And you dont have to make up for anything.
Making smaller TM increases does not mean you do less. You do the same amount only with an adequate increase.
For example, if my OHP work weight is like 220lbs, then adding 5lbs to that is a 2,27% increase.
Most females never get past 88lbs OHP… adding 5lbs to that is 5.68% increase… If your working weights are less, then you are forced to increase even up to 10% as opposed to my increase thats less than 2.5% of what i lift.
By trying to increase TM as written you basically do a two cycle worth of jump - its impossible.
Just increase TMs by half and continue with original percentages.

Have you been doing the program? Because that seems like the best research in this case. I know several female lifters who have run the program as written effectively @Bagsy @ChickenLittle


I asked Jim himself once of there is anything that needed to be changed for an older female lifter. His answer was NO! He said his wife runs the program as written but she throws in shit for her ass like hip thrusts.

In my experience it is best to run the program as written. I have butchered it several times but have had the best results running the hardgainer template straight up.


Gulp, no haven’t started yet. Still rereading the book and trying to decide which template to use.

So can I do some lighter squats after the deadlifts 531. Can I basically ‘make up’ what to do after I’ve done the main lift? I need to squat at reasonably high intensity a few times a week for my bones( the higher the intensity the more bone I gain)

Do I have to switch variation after 2 cycles (he advises this in beyond)or can I continue running the variation indefinitely?

5/3/1 works well for my deadlift and bench. In my experience I have to work with higher TMs and often higher percentages on the supplemental work, which would otherwise be ridiculously light. And without question I only increase TMs by 5/2.5 pounds per cycle.

I think it is a good idea to run a 5/3/1 program as written and, like any other person who runs 5/3/1 templates, figure out what type of supplemental work works best for each lift. 5/3/1 is very broad and can cater to a lot of needs. Forever is a good read if you have not already picked it up; it will answer all of your questions.


Edit: what @Bagsy said. Especially the different templates for different lifts bit.

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Yeah I think I’ll have to get Forever. Hoped Beyond would suffice but forever seems to have more templates. Am I missing out by not having read original 531?
By supplementary work, do you mean eg the 5*10 in BBB? Are FSL and joker sets supplementary?
I’m confused with terminology, accessory exercise Vs supplementary

Ive little interest in gaining any more muscle, I’ve gained more than enough. Hopefully Forever has templates that will allow me lift at higher intensity for the supplementary work.
I previously used standard powerlifting programs , with volume blocks etc. I do tend to overanalyze everything so it will take me a while to get my head around things.
So far I know I want to lift 4 times a week, upper/lower split. I want to squat twice a week with as many sets as possible at higher intensity.;ideally bench twice…I want to do heavy accessory lifts like rdls and good mornings for my bones . I’ll surely find a program in Forever that will allow this. Although I’m getting bogged down in Beyond so maybe I’ll do a few cycles of a variation first and then read Forever. Recovering from an injury so too much time on my hands …

BBB, FSL, and SSL are examples of supplementary work.

Forever describes all of this in detail. I feel that none of the other books are necessary to have, but it is nice to read how Jim’s philosophy evolved.

It definitely does.

5/3/1 is not designed for powerlifters, though Jim wrote a book on the subject. 5/3/1 is more of a generalist approach. Still, there are “volume blocks” (e.g. BBB) and opportunities to realize those gains in what Jim now calls “anchors” in Forever. 5/3/1 is incomplete without the conditioning work and jumps/throws on top of the barbell work.

It’s not like all the programs in Beyond magically no longer work after he released Forever. You can certainly follow a program from Beyond and achieve good results. However, Beyond is not written well enough in my opinion to answer some of the questions you are asking here.


This post is spot on, @Bagsy!