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Assistance Questions on My 5/3/1 BBB

Hello everybody, I have read the ebook from jim wendler about 5/3/1 (the first one I think) and performed a full cycle of 4 weeks.

My current TM are like this :

  • Press : 65kg (143 lbs)
  • Deadlift : 166kg (365 lbs)
  • Bench : 110kg (242 lbs)
  • Squat : 157kg (345 lbs)
    and I’m currently weighting 78kg (171lbs) around 12-13% bodyfat after doing nearly 3 years of gym with different routines including lyle mcdonald gbr recently (most of the time before I was doing a “bro split”…)

My template looks like this : (doing bbb sets on opposite days)
Monday :

  • Press 5/3/1
  • Chin-up 5x10 (but I don’t have enough strengh / recovery to do the 5 sets so most of the time I’m doing 10/9/6/5 then 2 lat pulldown sets to get my 50 reps)
  • BBB Weighted Dips 5x10 (so many difficulties to end the final set)
  • Face pull 3x15

Tuesday :

  • Deadlift 5/3/1
  • BBB Squat 5x10 @50% squat TM
  • Leg curl 3x12
  • Calves raises 5x10
  • Abs (doing abs wheel 5x15)

Thursday :

  • Bench 5/3/1
  • Bent over rowing 5x10 (currently 60kg I don’t really know how much I should put)
  • BBB Inclined bench press 5x10 @ 50% of bench TM
  • Face pull 3x15


  • Squat 5/3/1
  • BBB Sldl 5x10 @ 50% deadlift TM
  • Leg extensions 3x12
  • Calves 5x10
  • Abs (5 sets of obliques work)

When I have more time I can add a bit of arm isolation on monday and/or thursday just doing 2 sets of kickback and 2 sets of hammer curl

Questions because I didn’t find answer in the ebook :

  1. Should I stay on chin up and try to do 5x10 with more rest currently for BBB sets I’m resting 2min in order not to stay too many time at the gym ? (I’m not even sure that with more rest I would be able to do the 5x10 anyway I have a very poor recovery between sets)

  2. How to manage weight on lat exercises ? because I don’t have a main exercise to take “50 to 60%” of it, should I just add weight when 5x10 becomes easy ? (I’m scared that increasing weight will make me fail the 5x10), same question for weight increase on calves

  3. How to manage weight for dips ? again there is the 50% idea, but I don’t have TM for dips as there is no “dip day”… I know that I can easily do 10 reps @25kg for 1 set (55 lbs) but even @10 kgs I cannot finish the 5x10 (always missing 1 or 2 reps in the final set… as for question 1, maybe I should take more rest)

Thanks for any answer and tip you can provide me (and don’t hesitate if I’m missing something on the workout) for now I find it very good for the 5/3/1 part, but I’m wondering if the 5x10 sets are heavy enough for “muscle mass” and how I should handle them.

You’re overthinking your assistance way too much. Try this (and this is for every lift)

2 cycles of

5’s pro + BBB@FSL
0-25 pull
0-25 push
0-25 single leg/core

Followed by 1 cycle of
5/3/1 +PR set and 5x5@FSL
25-50 pull
25-50 push
25-50 single leg/core

For push, do push ups, dips, triceps push downs, etc…
For pull, do chinups, DB rows, cable rows etc…
For single leg/core do any ab exercise, lunge or single leg squat.

When you’re doing BBB you should limit/lower your assistance, and increase it slightly in an “anchor”. Don’t major in the minors - focus on doing your main work with speed and purpose and fine tune the edges with the assistance.


Yeah dude dips can’t be done BBB. It has to be a big barbell lift with a training max. Just do it for the press or pick another pressing exercise. I like to do dips on my press day as well,(I think the press gets my shoulders in good shape to do the dips or something), but I don’t do boring but big.

Thanks for your answers but I want to keep it simple for the 5/3/1 part because I like it the way I’m doing it (even if it’s maybe old because it is as describeed in the first ebook)

for kbama it still doesn’t explain which weight to put on the “lat exercises” and “calves” that Jim wendler is prescribing in the book… and I like the idea to know exactly the weight that I am going to use for each workout and having a progression plan .

As I’ve read on his blog for BBB, it is possible to do desc pyramid for bbb set, so maybe I’ll just do this for dips 10 reps @ 25/20/15/10/5, maybe I’m wrong but I think that 5x10 @ 10kg is just too little weight to grow my chest :confused:

DON’T program weight for all the assistance. He just broadly says lat / calf work etc because it’s not work to program weight on. It’s not a main barbell lift. Pick whatever you want to do that day, (chins, rows, weighted, no weight, whatever) and get in some good reps.

It doesn’t matter if you do all bodyweight, go light on tiring days, you don’t need to track it. Do dipsif you’re feeling good, or pushups if you’re a bit tired, or tricep extensions if you just want to get a good pump and some low intensity high reps. Take it day by day based on how you feel.

Increase your 5/3/1 lifts, and even if you did the same 5x10 bodyweight dips every time, if your bench and press PR sets are improving it means it’s working. It means your assistance (important part) is assisting the main lift successfully.

Your strength and muscle changes hinge on good quality reps and slow steady progress (AND jumps/throws, honestly doing 10-20 good jumps before my 5/3/1 lift has benefited me as much or more than assistance exercises), the assistance is an extra 5% on top of that, don’t overthink it.

I haven’t run BBB in a while now, but I usually base my assistance on the heaviest weight I can handle for the number of sets/reps prescribed, with good form.
I.e., I DB row 10 reps with 30kg between sets of bench. If I had to do 5 reps, I’d up to 36kg.
Goblet squats, I do them with 20kgs for sets of 10-15 reps. If I did sets of 5 reps, I’d up to 36kg.
Face pulls, I do 50 reps in rest pause with 10kg - measly weight, but pause at the end of the rep for 1-2 seconds and keep tension during the negative phase and they’ll do the job.
You have to go trying around a bit and basing on your experience - as a generic rule, if you’re in doubt, go lighter than you would. Especially with BBB.

But will I look big while going light on the BBB part ? if I chose this template it’s mainly for the “BIG” part :slight_smile:

(even if I know that the muscle growth comes more from diet, sleep etc, I just want to maximize the growth on the “gym” part)

I may switch for bench press instead of dips for the bbb sets (like this I will be able to follow my TM), but for the Press bbb as I’m using inclined bench, what TM should I base my work on ? inclined benching with 50% of overhead press is too light, so is it ok to work with the bench TM for both OHP & bench BBB sets ?

It’s hard to debate doing 5x10 sets of big compounds and getting bigger, even with 50% of your TM.

For incline bench, it’s usually 10-20% less than regular bench for most people. It really depends on you, how you trained and how inclined is the bench, tho. So take your bench TM, lower it of about 20% and start from there with a 50% load. If it feels too light, increase the load 5% at a time without overdoing it - not into the same workout, finish the BBB sets, if you end them feeling they were too light increase the % the following week.

If you can and if you’re not already doing it, superset BBB work with assistance work. Incline bench and chins on monday (like, 5 chins between each set), squats and ab wheel on tuesday, bench and rows on thursday and sldl with obliques on friday.
It may suck at first if you’re not used to it, but you’ll adapt.

I dont feel ready for super setting, btw I didnt ask but is it an issue to perform the 5x10 lat work before the bbb sets on ohp and BP days ? Because as I m not working the Same exercice as main on bbb I thought it didnt have an impact not doing it just after the 5/3/1 sets

I’d do the main work, then BBB, then lat work. BBB is supplemental, lat work is assistance - if BBB tires you a lot, rest before moving on to assistance. Don’t be afraid to stop 10 minutes if you need to, just make sure that once you start doing assistance you’re doing quality work.

Looking at your TMs, you’re definitely stronger than me and more experienced, it’s strange you don’t feel ready for supersetting - there’s a passage in 5/3/1 Forever where this point is addressed, it says something like: “Will rowing between sets of bench impair your bench? The answer is yes, if you’re out of shape”.
There’s quite a bit of emphasis throughout the book about getting the basic level of fitness/work capacity that allows you to superset opposite muscle groups without losing performance. It will obviously suck a bit at first but you’ll get used to it.

It’s not to push you towards that direction at any cost, but like you I initially only used the very first book (still use it, actually) and was hesitant to superset stuff, just to discover I could perfectly handle it while keeping good form, quality reps and shorter workouts.
If you’re worried about supersetting rows, I can guarantee 100% you can easily superset face pulls.

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So I removed the dips as it wasn’t “BBB approved” now I’m doing:

  • OHP 5/3/1
  • BBB BP 5x10 @ 50% BP TM
  • 50 chin-ups
  • 3x15 face-pull


  • DL 5/3/1
  • BBB squat 5x10 @ 50% Squat TM
  • Leg curl 3x12
  • Ab work 5 sets


  • BP 5/3/1
  • BBB Inclined bp @ 45% BP TM
  • Bent over row 5x10 (currently working @60kg, maybe I should increase, but I don’t have a clue how to base progression)
  • Face pull 3x15


  • Squat 5/3/1
  • BBB SLDL @ 50% DL TM
  • Leg ext 3x12
  • Ab 5 sets of obliques

2 questions remaining :

  1. Can I add arm work on upper days (I’m thinking on dips + hammer curl on monday ~ 2-3 sets of 15 / diamond pushups or kickback + hammer curl on thursay) or is it a waste of time ? (I’m still more “aesthetic focus” than pure strength to be honnest)

2)Is it ok for chest development to do ONLY Bench press ? (Again, I’m aiming for maximal growth and aesthetic developemnt, and as I removed the weighted dips I’m not sure the stretch remains the same… but as I’m not a muscular growth scientist… maybe it’s not necessary)

  1. Follow the guidelines of the program for assistance - BBB asks for:
    -push: 25-50 reps
    -pull: 25-50 reps
    -single leg/core: 0-50 reps

On Monday, you’re doing 95 pulling reps - it’s my 2 cents but it can be fine, provided you don’t go silly with the weight on face pulls, they’re easy to recover from. In doubt, I’d rather cut chins in half and do 5 reps between each set of BBB sets, but see how you do with the current setup.
So you have room for 25-50 reps of pushing, you can use them for dips, triceps pushdowns, skullcrushers or whatever else you want to use.
Curls are pulling and you already have plenty of that above the recommended reps - you might want to kill two birds with one stone and if you stick to 50 chins, use a supinated or parallel grip most of the time, engages more arms.

On thursday, you have 85 pulling reps - again, you have room for 25-50 pushing reps, so pick the ones you want to do (i.e., pushups).
For arms, if you want to do them you could cut back some of the pulling (either face pulls or a bit of both) OR do some of the rowing with a grip that engages more arms.

Also, see below, you can do arms on lower days, which sounds more practical to me:

  1. If you’re concerned about chest development, it would make sense to pick dips for your pushing reps on Monday, to begin with. Then, remember you can do all three categories of assistance (push, pull and single leg/core) on EVERY training day.
    You don’t have pulling or pushing reps on Tuesday and Friday. This means you can fit in some direct arm work with pulling reps on both days, and some chest work like cable crosses or DB bench on both days.
    Supersets and rest pause could serve you well here. The important thing is that you don’t kill yourself with assistance, you won’t need heavy weights to do some bodybuilding, stick to lighter weights and more reps per set keeping intensity down. And don’t butcher your shoulders in the process.

Side note: in Forever there’s something about SLDL %, I need to check it. I think Jim mentioned that your bench press TM should be a good number for sets of 10 SLDLs, or something along that line, it’s nothing definitive or incredibly precise but might come in handy - I’ll look for it later

So I can do this additionnaly to the basic template which is main exercise + BBB sets + lat/calves depending if it’s upper or lower ? Or are these reps including BBB / lat/calves work sets ?

if it’s in addition to other sets so I can keep my routine with facepulls as the 25-50 pull reps and putting weighted dips as the 25-50 pushing reps (ie 3x15 for both facepulls & dips) anyway I don’t think I need additional curl as my biceps are already bigger than triceps…

But I am not feeling like I should train arms or chest even in isolation on tuesday / friday as I will still be sore from the workout from the day before I mean isn’t it counterproductive for muscle growth to not let them rest ? Muscle growth science is so vague…

  • if I want to be sure to do the best on my BP 5/3/1 on thursday I feel like I may suffer from DOM soreness if I do cable cross on tuesday :confused:

Basically, you have:
-main work, it’s the main lift(s) of the day
-supplemental work: it’s BBB, the 5x10 sets
-assistance: everything else, in the reps prescribed, and you can do them every day, each category. So every day you “should” do main work, 5x10 BBB, then 25-50 reps of each category (push, pull, single leg/core). Assistance is to be done with a grain of salt - doing pull aparts and face pulls the day before deadlifts is one thing, doing a ton of back raises the day before deadlifts is dumb.

Usually, it’s recommended to do bodyweight stuff for assistance. Less stress on joints and less intensity to accumulate volume - I’d avoid weighted dips, but then again, you might be able to handle them. I honestly don’t know, someone who can dip with +60kg for reps won’t probably have any issue doing weighted dips with +20kg as assistance. [quote=“pyromanxp, post:13, topic:230226”]
But I am not feeling like I should train arms or chest even in isolation on tuesday / friday as I will still be sore from the workout from the day before I mean isn’t it counterproductive for muscle growth to not let them rest ? Muscle growth science is so vague…

You shouldn’t get to the point where assistance work gets you sore for days, that’s why assistance should be light enough to accumulate low intensity volume without impacting on your recovery and performance.
You’re already benching twice a week in BBB sets, so that’s a lot of work you’re already getting, which is why the extra chest work should be something like pump work if you really want to - again, it depends on you and your ability to recover, you have to base it on your previous experience and your first weeks in 5/3/1 if this kind of training is new to you.

I.e. I do deadlifts on monday, throw in about 30 reps of cable cross, then press on tuesday and do 50 reps of DB bench, then squat on thursday and throw in lateral raises for 30 reps, then bench on friday - this way alternating between chest and shoulders I don’t have the problem of overlapping exercises, soreness and whatelse.
But you’re more focused on chest, bench a lot and do dips, so I’d be cautious. Stick to the program for a couple of weeks at least before considering about adding more chest work if you feel it could impair your recovery/performance.

Your job is, in a few words, to do the main work the best way you can with solid reps, do the supplemental work (BBB) with sound technique and bar speed, then accumulate low intensity volume with assistance stuff.

I could honestly not tell you the last time I did a curl without opening up last years training log that’s outside in my gym. These are the exercises I do for arms - you might be surprised.

Squat, Deadlift, Bench, Press, Chins, Dips, Rows.

That’s really it. You don’t need anything else to build big arms or chest if that’s what you want to do.


Well I’m just going to run it like this :


  • OHP 5/3/1
  • BBB BP 5x10 @ 50% BP TM
  • 50 chin-ups
  • assistance pushing : dips 3x15
  • assistance pulling : 3x15 face-pull


  • DL 5/3/1
  • BBB squat 5x10 @ 50% Squat TM
  • Leg curl 3x12
  • calves 5x10
  • Ab work 5 sets


  • BP 5/3/1
  • BBB Inclined bp @ 45% BP TM
  • Bent over row 5x10
  • Assistance pushing : dips 3x15
  • assistance pulling : 3x15 face-pull


  • Squat 5/3/1
  • BBB SLDL @ 50% DL TM
  • Leg ext 3x12
  • calves 5x10
  • Ab 5 sets of obliques

Does it seem ok or is there any serious flaw ? (is selecting inclined bp as Press BBB ok anyway ? I picked it to be a bit more “chest oriented workout” and it was mentionned on https://jimwendler.com/blogs/jimwendler-com/101077382-boring-but-big )

Is it enough / not too much volume to maximize muscular growth, will the not weighted dips work the triceps enough ? I am more and more confused… at least weight and 1 RM are increasing week after week I’ve got at least this to get satisfied :slight_smile:

personally I wouldn’t waste my time with the calves work - if you do any sort of running or jogging, that should be more than enough. I would also ditch the leg extensions. Replace the leg extensions with single leg squats or Bulgarian split squats. For calves, either jump rope or run.


Yeah the calves work isn’t going to help your lifts or make you stronger. Pushing the prowler would be a better use of times and it does work the calves. You seem to be really into trying to do bodybuilding instead of worrying about getting stronger. You’ll gain all the muscle you want and more if you get your main lifts up and quit worrying about all the details of assistance work and just get it in.

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Sorry my english is too bad to understand, what does “pushing the prowler” means ?
And for calves it’s from far my weakest point in term of mass and I don’t think that running will make them grow more than calve raises, but I may be wrong :slight_smile:

I’d make a few changes.

On the BP and OHP press, I’d add a lower/core assistance. For example, DB squats or hanging leg raise.

On the Squat and DL days, I’d take out leg extensions and calves, and put in an easy push and pull assistance. Like tricep pushdowns and curls.

Face pulls/pull aparts can be done every workout for low weight/high reps. I’d up the amount total ~100 of some combination of the two each workout day. I personally don’t really consider these programmed with the workout, and just get them done during the warmup, between sets, etc…