Pretty much everywhere I’ve been people are like “oh keep milking those noob gains, and 5/3/1 isn’t for beginners”. I disagree, although it may not be the for the rank beginner, I think I can benefit from it.
I’m at a point where I can’t always add weight to the bar each session or even week and fire of a 3x5. It’s never pretty either, a 5 rep squat with my 5RM is a grind. I’ve tried for two weeks to get get 555 instead of 544 (or 534 or 543!) but then how can it be if you are trying to max your 5RM each session? My 5RM’s currently look like this:
Squat (Olympic High Bar style, that’s how I learned): 210lbs
Military Press (done strict, feet together): 112lbs
I’ve been training for about a year. I started off loosely trying to follow the 5x5 Stronglifts system and not really following the rate of progress. I bumped up the weight when I felt I could do those 5x5’s easily, rather than pushing sessionly and trying to eat a crap ton of food. I was then taken under the wing of somebody who wanted to train me for their goals and not mine.
I was doing Oly style lifts with lots of Press and DL variations each week whilst completely avoiding the Bench for weeks at a time (hence why I have an awesome Deadlift, a more than respectable MP, and a crappy Bench).
After a while (8 weeks ago) I said “screw it”, because Oly lifting wasn’t for me (6’1, long femured, long armed, mid 20’s… Not Russian or Chinese) and decided to simplify things wanting to focus on Strength and Bodybuilding. I began by cutting my numbers back 10% and adopting a Starting Strength format, rationalising that I should try LP for as long as possible and then switch to something I’ve always kind of believed in for the long term - 5/3/1.
Cut to today, and following almost 6 weeks of Starting Strength, I’ve finally had enough because I can’t progress every workout (or week or longer) and even though I’m eating a lot, I feel miserable and don’t look forward to going to the gym every session. Following these six weeks, I’ve added 22lbs to the Squat, 45lbs to the Deadlift, 22lbs to the Bench, and 10lbs to the Military Press. Those numbers aren’t true 3x5 reflections (as the Starting Strength cult will insist upon), rather, they represent the most recent 5 reps I’ve pulled off before hitting a sticking point - ie, I can’t improve upon them thereby adding the weight. After 2 weeks, I had to “take a light day” mid week and switch to 2x5 Squats at 80% of Monday’s work weight. Then I was looking at weekly 5lbs/10lbs increases rather than session-by-session, then it was stalling and trying to improve that by microloading… Ad Nauseam
I’m sick of resetting by 10% and working my way back up at this point, I was doing this many times whilst training Oly style and I simply want to see some damn gains!
So, is 5/3/1 with BBB truly acceptable for somebody in my position? I don’t care about having strength quickly, I’d rather be able to continually set PR’s on things like reps and work on hypertrophy (6’1 185lbs…) whilst getting stronger at a steadier pace. I hate grinding through sessions and being discouraged by my own progress when I see other people with better numbers who’ve not really followed any particular programming. But I digress
I’ve decided to start 5/3/1 on Monday and not look back, but I have some queries:
Do I need to eat less on 5/3/1 compared to Starting Strength? I’m currently bulking (I currently maintain on like 3500-3700 calories a day, lifting with a somewhat physically demanding life) or trying to at least, and realise that 5/3/1 + BBB is going to produce more hypertrophy than SS or any of that ilk, but since I’m not grinding and trying for new 5RM’s every session/week, do I really need the extra calories? Or, heck, do I need more now that I’m going to be doing 5x10’s and AMRAP’s?
I have a terrible bench press, I’m hoping that the increased rep work and accessory work will improve upon this,. I guess my biggest concern about switching early to 5/3/1 (if that is even a true thing) is that I’m robbing myself of building a bigger bench, even though I’ve failed to improve upon that 1 set of 5 at 145lbs and when benching less frequently (Oly days), I was never able to get above 132lbs. That brings me to my next question…
Do I have to increase ONLY 5lbs upper/10lbs lower each cycle, or can I maybe do a bit more if I find I’m kicking ass with the AMRAP’s? I know it’s not doing the program, but I’ve noticed some people who’ve run the program in their logs, have made more progress numbers wise than they should have when only increasing 5lbs + 10lbs each cycle. I want to develop a bigger bench and squat (definitely a bigger bench much faster) faster, but I don’t want to have to grind through soul crushing workouts via the Starting Strength hazing method and potentially not really progress, not to mention, no hypertrophy.
Is it worth going to Low Bar squat for the long term? I have no Olympic Weightlifting goals… Can I transition into this with my current numbers (or training percentage) as I begin 5/3/1 next week?
I believe in 5/3/1, even as a rank beginner I thought the potential of such a program was incredible. I can’t help having a doubt in the back of my mind that if I simply pigged out more often (I have to admit, this week I’ve had some caloric indiscretions because I’m bulking and also have been shooting to try and max out the 5RM’s as best I can… I failed!), went with a 10% reset and carried on slugging through SS that I’d somehow start making rapid progress again, despite EVERYBODY I train with IRL telling me I’m insane for trying to hit max every workout and that it’s not necessary to tax myself like that if I want to look better, eat well or even get stronger.
Thanks to everybody who has read this wall of text and thanks in advance to those who respond. All advice is good advice.