Assistance Problem in Forever: Sets, Reps, Volume, and Intensity

I love 531. I really like the new Forever book. The only thing I don’t like is how the assistance is set up. I don’t mind the push, pull, single leg / core, three categories. But I don’t like the fact it just says 25 to 50 reps or 50 to 100 reps.

I mean I could do band pushdowns for 1 set of 50 Reps for my push category very light or I can do tricep extensions for 5x10 which is more intense.

Or band pull aparts for an easy set of 50 compared to doing multiple sets of chins til I get to 50. This has very different intensity levels. I just wish it was outlined more for certain rep ranges per set to hit as opposed to just total reps.

Anyone have any advice on this?

Don’t try to be intentionally stupid about how you do your assistance work to prove a point and you should be fine.

It’s just assistance work. If you are pushing the main work and supplemental work hard, you will get big and strong. The assistance work is responsible for 10% of the progress and gets 90% of the questions.


This. Outside of balancing the supplemental movements with the antagonistic movement matched with similar reps/sets I hardly even do assistance. Still blowing through PRs. Don’t over think it.

Yeah I just feel if I have a better plan for my assistance I will feel more confident in it and get better results. But yeah I do agree if I get better in the four main lifts I will get bigger and stronger overall

I try to vary the intensity level across a training week- having a heavy/medium/light for each of the 3 assistance categories.
For example Monday’s assistance will be
Chins (Heavy pull- I’m a big man!), DB Press (Medium push), Hanging knee raise (light core)

DB row (Medium), Tricep Push downs (Light), Weighted Back Extensions (Heavy)

Face pulls (Light), Dips (Heavy), Ab wheel (Medium)

I feel like this helps by using different exercises which I can increase in weight or reps week by week, by using ones which I enjoy, and by allowing my body some time to recover from heavy assistance.

Of course, some days I do change things, because assistance isn’t a priority- the other day I felt incredibly beaten up after my main sets, so dropped dips and ab wheel for some light push and core work. I still got the reps in, and felt fresh and ready to go for the next session.

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Apply common sense.
I don’t count most prehab stuff like band pull aparts towards the assistance number of reps, since I’m doing 100-200 pull aparts and 50-100 dislocators daily, regardless if I workout or not.

Forever has more indications about this, basically, scale your assistance based on the template you’re doing.
The heaviest/intensive is your supplemental work, the less intensive you want your assistance to be. I.e. if you’re running BBB@FSL you might want to avoid leg work and stick to core work, and scale your pushing assistance to easier/smaller stuff like pushdowns and laterals.

Basically every exercise has many ways to be performed in easier or harder ways, Jim suggests a couple variations for many of them in the book but you individually have to adjust them according to your current level, there’s no way a book addressed to the generic audience can list all the possible combinations of all possible exercises for every possible gym-goer.

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If you really don’t want to plan your own assistance, pick a template that prescribes exactly what assistance you do. I don’t have the book in front of me, but off the top of my head:
Krypteia, Prep and fat loss, widowmaker circuit, beginners template, 531 original, limited time, and many others.

The Forever book literally tells you to use common sense about a dozen times. Also, use your experience. Not that hard for you but impossible for me.


You’re going to need to learn to choose a starting point and then look at the outcomes and make a call. 5/3/1 gives you good guidance on this through the start light, progress slowly principle.

This is a good mindset to develop as it applies everywhere in life. You don’t want to be the guy that needs his handheld to do the things that need the most basic of initiative - you’re not a robot (though sometimes the internet make me wonder.)

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Would it be alright to take the body weight work to failure on assistance lifts for instance three sets of Max reps of push-ups / chin-ups / hanging leg raises. For me that would fall between the 50 to 100 reps. Or would that take away from the main lifts?

He literally said use common sense. So knowing yourself would this impede your recovery and hurt your main lifts? If you don’t know try it for a cycle then objectively measure how it affected everything. If it worked continue doing it if not split it up into something more manageable for you.

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Personally, I never take pullups to failure. Something about them just buries you. For example, if I had to do 50 and I went to failure on each set, then it would look like this:

12, 8, 4, 3, 1, 1, 3, 2, 5, 2, etc.

But if I did 10x5, I’d knock them over pretty quickly.



See what sets and reps work for you without knackering your body or interfering with your program. The book guides you but can’t spell out every possible option or predict what you need.