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BBB Assistance Questions: Incline Press, Dips

I’ve been doing a U/L split with a similar layout to the 531 program based around the 4 big lifts, but without a real progression plan. “3 sets of 6-8 reps, hit the top end of the rep range for the first set and try to get the next 2 sets in the 6-8 range before moving up in weight.” Saw some initial results but I’ve hit a plateau the past month.

Yesterday I decided to switch to 531 BBB. Did my first workout (bench press, duh) and because of my stalled lifts I knew my 3 rep max exactly (which is about 90% of my 1RM) which I used as my TM (minus a few pounds to start out lighter as suggested).

First impression: I love the minimalistic setup and the workout kicked my ass. I got 10 reps (with 1 left in the tank) on my 5+ set (which is a rep PR for me!). Then I picked bb row and incline bench press as assistance. I knew that I could get 3x12 with a certain weight so I picked that weight to do my 5x10 sets. Last two reps of the final set were really hard but since the weight was pretty “light”, my form didn’t break down.

I feel like I’ve overdone on the assistance exercises, although I completed all sets and reps. I was unsure how to pick the weight for my incline bench press as I don’t know how it relates to my flat bench press. I also read that you should not base incline on flat TM, like front squats and back squats. As it turns out, I did 60% of my TM for flat bench on the incline. How should I pick the weight for the incline assistance?

Another thing is: I can complete 5 dips with 35lbs added to my waist, but I struggle with 10 reps with bodyweight. Should I just try to complete 50 reps, regardless of how many sets it takes and try to improve my dips until I get 5x10? Or should I pick another assistance exercise?


Find a weight you can comfortably do 5 reps for on the exercise and set that as your training max. The percentages will then be in the book for BBB as to what percentage of that you will do.

Incline bench press is not assistance, it’s a supplemental exercise. You shouldn’t be doing 5x10 incline bench after doing 5x10 BBB on flat bench. I’m assuming that’s what you did.

Try this if you’re doing BBB, and I’ll use Bench day as an example.

Do your 5/3/1+ sets and reps, then do BBB with FSL weight. If you can’t do 5x10 reps with your FSL weight, you’re using too high of a TM and should lower it to 80/85% of your estimated 1RM.

For assistance, choose bodyweight exercises like dips, chins, leg raises, or single leg squats. When doing BBB, the money is focusing on the main lifts and supplemental, not so much what you do for assistance.

If you can’t get 10 dips in a row, you could set a target of 50 reps, and just get them all done in 5-10 sets. You’re getting enough volume for your upper body with BBB that you don’t need to kill yourself over how many dips you can do in 1 set. If you’re fatigued from the BBB on bench, chose something easier like 50 push-ups or triceps rope push–downs. Just chose what you want to do for push assistance that day depending on how you feel.

Best of luck!

Hi Marc! I replaced the 5x10 flat bench at 50-60% by the incline bench press, as my assistance exercise. I only did bench 531 (week 1), Incline bench 5x10 and Bb row 5x10.

But what weight should I base my Incline bench press assistance on? Should it be a percentage of my flat bench press, or should I treat it as a main lift (determine 1rm, take 90% TM and then 60% of that) or just eyeball it and move up in weight when I hit 5x10?

I know the assistance is just “assistance” and nothing more, but I’d like to gain some mass while doing the program although my main focus is strength. Thus picking the right weight for my volume work so it doesn’t interfere with my main lifts but still induces hypertrophy is the aim.

As for what you said about the dips on OHP day, that was exactly what I was trying to find out, thanks!

You would figure out your incline bench the same way you’d do any lift - find your 5 rep max and use the rep max calculator to estimate it - then set the TM for that lift and use 50-75% of that for the BBB sets.

Honestly, if you know your 10 rep max, or close to it for the incline bench, I personally would just use that as my training max for exclusive supplemental lifts like good mornings, incline bench, front squats, or variations of the deadlift. So if your 10 rep max for the incline bench is 200 pounds - use 200 pounds as your training max and then do your BBB sets at “FSL” weight. Depending on what week your on (5’s, 3’s, 5/3/1), you’d use 65%, 70%, and 75% respectively of 200 pounds for 5x10 sets.

Alright, thanks for the advice! Going to try this next time.

This is fully explained in the Forever 5/3/1 book - along with how to program it.



531 newb here but an experienced lifter. I just want to add something here.

The assistance work in my opinion (with any strength method/program) should never be “grindy” or reps where your just straining your balls off (dont even approach failure). I like bodyweight stuff or lighter weights that hit the muscle effectively but dont wear out the nervous system.

I think that the main lift and assistance should be trained as polar opposites in terms of “neural energy pathways”. I also like to believe that the success behind 531 is attributed to only having 4 all out sets per week. I also think of these main lift sets as exertion that tests and builds CNS efficiency (the motor) Whereas the assistance stuff just helps build the exterior so that more muscle tissue can be used for potential new strength gains on the key lifts. If i were you i wouldnt stress about percentages at all for assistance work. If your primary goal is to get stronger, the key lifts will add size to the muscle fiber overtime. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy will come from moderate loads with enough volume however, if your main goal is to get stronger while adding size I wouldnt go with more than 50% of your TM on those sets, you dont need much at all for hypertrophy and this will ensure proper recovery for PRs on the main lifts! Good luck dude!

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That’s what I was wondering, whether the 5x10 at 50% is enough to induce hypertrophy. I’ve read about the bbb 3 month challenge and in week 3 you should go up to 70% of your TM for 5x10, so 50% seems light to me.

This being said, it turns out (based on my 5rm on the incline) that I used 70% of my TM for the 5x10 sets. I did feel a bit sluggish yesterday, like the day after a very heavy deadlift day so I can see what you mean by CNS involvement and giving your CNS a break with the 5x10.


Sorry Jim, I would love to pick up a copy, but I’m taking whatever free advice I can get at the moment. I’m a poor student so in between paying rent and buying food, there isn’t much to spare for things like that. 40$ is A LOT of food if you shop right.

I will buy it eventualy, just not now.

Having done this, trust me…if your TM is correct it’s not too light.

Would highly recommend the BBB 3 Month Challenge as written.

Can’t stop laughing at the « seems light » comment.

Damn, funny stuff right there.