Am I Making Progress?

Hey guys, I am brand new to this forum. I have a question regarding the 5/3/1 program that I am on.
I am 5’11 170 lbs. and 18 years old. My current lifting PRs are:

  1. Bench press: 180 lbs. x 5, 215 lbs. x 1 RM (actual 1RM, not training max)
  2. Squat: 250 lbs. x 5, 285 lbs. x 1 RM (actual 1RM, not training max)
  3. Press: 125 x 5 reps, 140 lbs. 1 RM (actual 1RM, not training max)
  4. Deadlift: 325 x 5 reps., 370 1 RM (actual 1RM, not training max)

I’ve been on Wendler’s 5/3/1 program for over a month now. I don’t know if it matters but my first cycles for each lift had started at different weeks from each other instead of starting all of their cycles within the same week. For instance, I started my first cycle of Wendler’s 5/3/1 program for both the bench and the OH press 5 weeks ago. However, I started my first cycle of Wendler’s 5/3/1 program for both squat and the deadlift, 4 week ago.

In any case, according to Mr. Wendler’s formula for calculating a true 1RM for each main lift they would theoretically be:

  1. Bench press: 221 lbs.
  2. Squat: 291.7 lbs.
  3. Press: 145 lbs.
  4. Deadlift: 379 lbs.

Now, multiplying each of those numbers by 90% would give me training max numbers for each of the lifts.
So, my training maxes for each of the lifts, for each of their first cycles are:

  1. Bench press: 198.9 lbs.
  2. Squat: 262.53 lbs.
  3. Press: 130.5 lbs.
  4. Deadlift: 341.1 lbs.

Now, Jim has said that for each subsequent forward cycle, you add about 5 lbs. to your upper body training maxes and about 10 lbs. to your lower body training maxes. Therefore, my training maxes for the 2nd cycles are:

  1. Bench press: 203.9 lbs.
  2. Squat: 272.53 lbs.
  3. Press: 135.5 lbs.
  4. Deadlift: 351.1 lbs.

So, yesterday I did my shoulder day of the first week of my 2nd cycle and on my 3rd set, which was supposed to be my final set, I hit 115 lbs. for 4 reps. So I decided to do another set to see if I could do better on the next set after being “primed” up. I actually did do better, and ended up hitting 115 lbs. x 6 reps.

Now, according to Wendler’s formula, 115 lbs x 6 reps would equal to being approx. 138 lbs. for a theoretical 1 RM. Therefore, since 138 lbs. is higher than my current training max number for the press does that mean that I actually made some progress on the Press?

You made progress with 115 lbs on the press or with 6 reps. You are probably stronger for a 1 rep max but it doesn’t matter. You progressed on something. What was the last time you did 115lbs or 6 reps? Less reps and weight? If so you progressed. Progress.
It is progress.

Formulas can be accurate or not, and you have to factor in that you are not accustomed to sets of 1 reps if you don’t do them. But you still progressed so it doesn’t matter.

You made some progress, but you might not be able to do a 1 rm if you are accustomed to something else. There is ambiguity, but it doesn’t matter.

It’s still progress.


Your actual max should be quite a bit higher than your training max. Use the formula given which is “weight x reps x .0333 x weight” to determine if you’ve beat a PR.

Assuming you’re using the 2nd edition set-up, here’s an example:
week 1: 225 for 5 reps = 262 lbs
week 2: 215 for 8 reps = 272 lbs

So in this very plausible example, you hit a 10lb pr using LESS weight.

But you’ve only been at this for a month, so don’t be messing with the program until you’ve got a handle on how you respond to it as written.

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If you’re just barely clearing 5 reps on the second cycle’s 5s week, you started too heavy. When you say you are “primed”, do you mean you psyched yourself up for the lift? If so, did you do the same thing for your 1rms? If that’s the case, pick a GYM max, not a comp max, and use 90% of THAT to calculate your training max. The weight that you can hit when emotionally aroused is vastly different from the weight you can hit on any given day, and if you use the former to create your training max, you’re going to be lifting way too heavy.

Remember; no one cares how much your training max is. If it’s low and you’re making progress, that’s why better than having the highest training max in the crowd and being dead in the water.


Start light and progress slowly. You’re overthinking it. You’re also 18 so i’m guessing you’re going to have SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome) for the next 3-10 years jumping from one program to another. Too much internets out there.

It’s like dating, you’re 18, go sleep with as many different programs as you can. Do them all wrong, blame the girl, I mean the program, learn, do another program and on and on and on. Tell your friends at the gym all about it and they will tell you about their program too.

Eventually you’ll decide you want a good consistent partner who will do you right, someone you can grow old with and will make you feel good about yourself. You won’t have to overthink anything, you can just make it part of your life, and it works. That’s 531. Until then your SOS is in charge like a wild libido.

You’ll cheat on 531 a few times too, maybe do some Crossfit on the side or a little Westside to keep it kinky, but eventually you’ll know where the lifelong gains are and you’ll be back eating humble pie saying sorry I cheated baby I know you’re the best for me. lol

This is all in jest of course, I wish you luck hombre.


Watch your TMs and stay the course.

Really try to look at the long-term results of the programming.

Good luck!

You don’t need to make that mistake of going down the path that clarksbarbell so poetically described. Take those current 5 rep maxes as your TM. I know that’s a kick in the cunt but too bad, get used too it . You’re 18 you’ve got your whole life ahead of you! Now own that 180 bench, 250 squat, 125 OH, 325 dead Make them your bitch and carry on. You WILL NOT be disappointed. START LIGHT!! Those are solid #'s. Read every book and article by JIM WENDLER over and over again and your good to go !

lol… One month. Thats barely ONE cycle of the program. Run it for 6-8 cycles and then evaluate things.

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Clarksbarbell - we are driving to the airport now and read your post out loud. Bravo! You are to blame for the pee spot on my pants.


Joking aside from my previous post (I think we scared him away) to be serious I would say Yes you are making progress. You decided to do 531, that’s progress over your friends who are probably doing nothing.

You finished 1 cycle and are still interested enough to ask questions about it, that’s progress.

You signed up here and were brave enough to throw your stats for the world to see, that’s progress.

As noted before, you’re only 1 cycle in. It’s great that you want to evaluate its impact already but I guarantee you if you give it 6 months you’ll be stronger by Christmas than you are today. Stay focused on eating right and getting good sleep and you’ll be fine.

You follow the program exactly as it is written. It’s layed out clearly for you and no don’t combine with other templates . Also read over the notes section again. There are really good tips that if you follow and implement in your training, you’ll save your joints for your later years

As T3hPwnisher noted above, you seem to have started too heavy. One reason for this seems to be that you calculated your training max from numbers that you know to be higher than your 1rm. You say you have an actual 1rm on bench of 215, but then you calculated your training max from 221. Because of this alone your training maxes all started about 5-10lbs highers than they should have been. In any case, whenever you happen to reset the weights you might want to just use whatever you recently got 5 reps or so on as the new TM.

This guy posted the same thing on the Rosstraining forum (different username). He has been posting there since 2011 and never listens to anything anyone says. He changes goals and programs jumps all the time.

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Who the f*** cares!? Stick with the program as written out, and in one year you’ll be laughing hard for ever thinking about this stuff. …while benching 225lbs for reps.

Just stick with it! Train hard, eat right, sleep right, and the gains will come.

This type of success is fleeting…

The completion of a training block where you hit all your sessions (including mobility, dynamic work and conditioning) to a minimum intensity and recovered well (nutrition, sleep, active recovery) is true success.


You shouldn’t keep repeating the last set. Why do you keep doing this? This is the second time in the thread you have mentioned doing this.

Stick to the program and stop overthinking everything.